Anthony Kim cards his best round yet, and it wasn’t close

anthony kim liv golf

Anthony Kim shot a final-round 65 Sunday in Hong Kong.

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No one knew what to expect from Anthony Kim’s return to competitive golf. Not you, not Greg Norman, likely not AK himself. But when he began that journey last week with a last-place finish (by a lot), it seemed that perhaps the hype of this comeback would outweigh its success.

Kim shot 76-76-74 in his first three rounds back after a 12-year absence from competitive golf, and when he continued that level of play with a 76 Friday in Hong Kong, he found himself in a similar place on the leaderboard, right near the bottom. His improvement to a 72 on Saturday (two over) came with four birdies, but did little for his standing. But then, in the middle of the night in America, some hope for progress, if only for one round. 

Kim carded a 65 Sunday in soggy Hong Kong, by far his best performance of the season, and the first one under par. He made seven birdies to just two bogeys, and compiled the fifth-best round of the day. Only Paul Casey, Dustin Johnson, Joaquin Niemann and Kevin Na beat him Sunday. Hope for progress indeed. 

“It’s just one round,” Kim said afterward. “It’s just one round of golf. But I played the right way. I played the right way, and I didn’t do anything extraordinary. I just played like I know how to play. The scores were what they are.”

While Kim is right to stress that it is just one round, the golf world is bound to react with excitement considering how small the sample size of competitive rounds is. What kind of player is Kim really going to be? He has been brutally inaccurate off the tee, finding just 37% of fairways and just 46% of greens, and that was no different Sunday, but has been bailing himself out with the flatstick.

LIV’s promotion-oriented broadcast team was keen to acknowledge how Kim was leading the LIV field in putting, which even caught him by surprise during his post-round interview. But that is via an antiquated statistic, putting average, and not the modernized Strokes Gained: Putting, which incorporates the distance from which every putt is played. While it’s absolutely true that through two tournaments, Kim has averaged fewer putts than his competition on the 108 greens he’s visited, that is no doubt related to missing more greens than anyone on the tour as well. When pros miss greens with their approach shot, they’re bound to pitch it closer when scrambling for par. 

Nonetheless, we will not let any of that get in the way of what was a fantastic round of golf. The stats-focused Twitter account @Robopz has been tracking Kim’s Strokes Gained during this comeback, and while the first five rounds were all well north of the field average, Sunday’s came in at 3.5 strokes gained on the field.

“I knew something good was coming,” Kim said. “It’s hard to stay patient when you feel like it’s right there, and I’m really happy that it hasn’t taken me one more round to get here. I’m just happy about the progress I’m making and the confidence I’m building going into the next few weeks.”

As for the next few weeks, LIV does not host another tournament until early April in Miami, but Kim is signed up to play in next week’s International Series Macau on the Asian Tour. The International Series events are backed by LIV Golf as a promotional set of tournaments where LIV-ers can stay sharp and actually compete for world ranking points. Hence why Kim would earn an invite, and while he’ll find plenty of familiar faces, too. Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, Pat Perez and Ian Poulter are just a few of more than a dozen LIV players signed up. 

There will be two key differences for Kim next week, though. International Series events are four-round tournaments with a cut, which means form like Kim has displayed thus far would likely keep him from sticking around for the weekend. Also, there’s a major change in purse size: International Series events boast a $2 million purse, just 10% of what LIV events offers. Kim made $60,000 for his 50th-place finish. Next week, 50th will take home just $9,000. 

Sean Zak Editor

Zak is a writer at GOLF Magazine and just finished a book about the summer he spent in St. Andrews.