Anthony Kim opens up on LIV struggles, skeptics and hard road back

Anthony Kim looks on at the third green during day one of the LIV Golf Invitational - Miami at Trump National Doral Miami on April 05, 2024 in Doral, Florida

Anthony Kim is making his sixth LIV start this week in Houston.

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Anthony Kim’s return to the elite ranks of professional golf has proven at least one thing: finding your form after a 12-plus-year layoff isn’t easy. In his five LIV starts this season, Kim has not finished better than 50th in what are 54-player events and is a combined 52 over par. He also ranks outside the top 50 in three key statistical categories: fairways hit, greens in regulation and scrambling.

Still, Kim is back, and, as he sees it, that in itself is a win when you consider the tumultuous, addiction-challenged life he had been leading before he resurfaced in the public eye. Kim is enjoying having the routine of a pro-golf schedule again; of traveling with his wife, Emily, and their toddler daughter, Isabella; and of rediscovering the joys of a game that brought him fame, wealth and countless fans all those years ago.

This week’s LIV stop — the Golf Club of Houston — conjures especially good vibes for Kim because it was the site of his third of three PGA Tour wins, at the 2010 Shell Houston Open. In the lead-up to LIV Houston, Kim spoke exclusively to about his road back, his path forward and the daily struggles he still confronts.

This interview has been slightly edited for length and clarity. What has most surprised you about your return to professional golf?

Anthony Kim: There have a lot of things that have been a surprise. They [LIV Golf] really treat us good here, everything is first class. I know the PGA Tour does a good job, so, it’s not a slight on them, but this is really, really nice.

Competitively, what’s been the hardest thing about coming back?

I’m still working to regain the focus I need to hit good shots and compete at the highest level. I need to focus on every shot, and there have been five to six shots a round I haven’t been focused on, which has led to some bad holes. That’s where the momentum starts to shift, which leads to big scores. That’s been the number one thing for me.

Has playing for LIV reignited your passion for golf at this level?

Absolutely it has — not only competitively, but for golf in general. I wouldn’t say I was ever excited to play the game, but now I wake up every morning grateful to be playing this game for a living, and also to have the opportunity to play on LIV. The most important thing is my sobriety and my recovery, and that’s what I’m going to focus on, along with practicing every day.

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The recent death of Grayson Murray, who battled his own addiction issues, hit the golf world hard. How did you process it?

That was heartbreaking and it hit very close to home, like it did a lot of people. That could have been me, right? That could have been your brother or your sister. When you think about it that way, life is so precious, and you have to know how to enjoy it and appreciate it every day. That is the mindset I have. You’re not always going to wake every day in a good mood, but you have to do the best you can with your circumstances.

It that positivity something you learned in recovery?

Most people carry more around with them more than they admit. One thing I learned in recovery is when you think you’re over the hump, that’s the most dangerous time. I have a good support system and people who check on me, but it’s a day-by-day struggle.

Does being back on a pro tour give you a sense of routine?

It gives me something to do on regular basis and a bit of a routine to follow and a reason to get up every morning.

How do you explain to people the radical change in your life over the last couple of years?

The best way to explain it is time goes by real fast and you can make big changes in your life in a short period of time. I have a great support system and some friends who were there for me in the dark times. Obviously, my wife and my daughter are a huge inspiration to continue on. I feel like I’m on a good path now and I hope I can stay there.

Was there a particular incident in your life that made you realize you can’t continue on the path you were on?

I can’t talk about the specific example because it’s going to be in my documentary, and I don’t want people get that one specific clip and just use it as a salacious headline. There was a moment where I sat down with my wife and really had a tough conversation and realized that I was throwing my life away. If I wanted to be a good example to my daughter. I can’t keep doing what I’m doing.

Do have a message for skeptics — Harold Varner III calls them “haters” — who don’t think you can make it at this level after so much time away?

I don’t really worry about it, because most of them are in their grandmothers’ basement. I like to have some fun with them [on social media], but at the end of the day I was in such a low place in my own life, nothing anybody can say will affect what I’m doing.

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You’re playing this LIV season as a wildcard pick with no teammates. Have you had any discussions with LIV or team captains about potentially joining a squad in 2025?

I haven’t spoken to anybody about it yet. When the year is over, I’ll be speaking to those people who make the decision about joining a team next year and just see where it goes.

This week’s LIV event is at the Golf Club of Houston, where you won the 2010 Shell Houston Open. What do you remember from that tournament?

I remember getting the check. [Laughs] I don’t remember a whole lot about my game back then. But living in Dallas, I always loved coming here. It was three hours away, I could drive and the course was always in good shape and really fit my eye. I hope I can channel those good memories for some good golf this weekend. I got up and down for some saves because I wasn’t driving the ball very good back then. Now, the equipment and the technology is so good, my driving is much better — that’s one of the biggest changes for me.

You’re paired with Phil Mickelson in the first round on Friday. Does being around Mickelson stir up memories from your peak days on Tour?

I’ve always enjoyed playing with Phil and he has been very supportive of my return and my comeback to golf. Phil knows my story better than most, so we will have a good time playing together.

Patrick Reed told me that when he was in college, he watched you on Tour and loved your swagger and belt buckles. Does it feel weird to you that players out here largely know you from your previous career?

Well, it’s doesn’t seem weird because I’m used to it. I’ve been gone 12½ years so I don’t know how much they remember about my career. I’m just trying to do the best I can day by day. It’s not always something you want to talk about with your struggles, especially as a male. At the end of the day, I’d rather look corny to other people than struggle the rest of my days.

Speaking of those belt buckles, what happened to them?

No belt buckles, maybe later. I don’t really know what happened to them all.

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Art Stricklin

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