Anthony Kim showed up again on Friday.
No, he didn’t give an interview nor did he swing a golf club nor did he address the juicy rumors of the eight-figure insurance policy allegedly keeping him from the game. Instead, we got a glimpse of him in the manner we’ve recently grown accustomed: A picture on Instagram, a vague caption, no context, no answered questions. We supply the rest.
Friday’s appearance came via Adam Schriber, Kim’s longtime coach, who posted a photo of the two in front of the Dallas skyline with the caption “/021 is going to be special.” (We’re assuming that was supposed to read “2021,” unless this is some secret AK code.) Kim’s left arm is full-sleeve tatted now. He’s maintained his slim physique. And his “Boomer Sooner” t-shirt suggests ongoing support for his alma mater.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Anthony Kim in recent years. There was the shot of Kim holding a White Claw at an outdoor gathering this summer. There was a chance run-in with a golf fan at a coffee shop in West Hollywood, Calif. last year. There was the mysterious swing video, date and time unknown, that sent fans into a tizzy. You get the idea.
With each Bigfoot-like sighting, Kim’s myth has grown. How can a celebrity actually disappear in 2020? What has he been doing? Why, exactly, did he disappear from the PGA Tour? Kim has become a cult hero; legends from his short career are told and retold with increasing admiration and exaggeration.
Kim’s last three PGA Tour starts came in 2012; all three were WDs with injury. In the years that followed it seemed plausible that Kim would emerge from the shadows, rejuvenated, for some sort of magical comeback. As the calendar flips to 2021, we’re approaching a decade since he was a relevant Tour pro — any thought of a Tour comeback seems more like wishful thinking with every passing year.
It has also become less clear what we want from Anthony Kim. What would a desirable outcome be for the now 35-year-old? What would be a realistic outcome? Would we like it if he returned to the PGA Tour, made a few spot starts and battled to try and regain some status? What if he came back and wasn’t good enough?
In many ways the greater golf world’s feelings about Kim mirror our feelings for several other modern golf legends in the coming year. Nostalgia and mystique are a powerful combination. We know Annika Sorenstam, who walked away from the top of the game at age 37, won’t suddenly wind back the clock to play a full LPGA Tour schedule in 2021 — but we’d love to see her tee it up at the U.S. Senior Women’s Open. We know Michelle Wie West will never have the career we projected for her at age 14, but it would be terrific to see her in contention next season. We’re under no pretenses that Jordan Spieth will contend for the Grand Slam this year, like he did in 2015, but we’re desperate to see him regain some shred of his winning form.
As it turns out, the Schriber photo wasn’t the only Kim sighting of the week. A photo of Oklahoma football coach Bob Stoops at a bar accidentally captured Kim standing alongside him. Stoops was in Dallas to watch the Sooners claim a Cotton Bowl victory on Wednesday night and Kim appeared to join him to celebrate the team’s 55-20 drubbing of the Florida Gators.
Time only moves in one direction. We know that. Anthony Kim was a compelling, talented Tour pro who, like many great artists, wasn’t fully appreciated in his time. No matter what the future holds, the brash, shot-of-life 25-year-old isn’t coming back. We should probably be grateful that’s the case; in golf you can die the hero or live long enough to pick up a hefty pro-am schedule and start hawking random products on Instagram.
In golf, careers are long and feature contradictory chapters. Look no further than the most intriguing career of all, which delivered an impossible twist when Tiger Woods completed a return from the depths to win the 2019 Masters. But winning major championships was exactly what Woods always wanted. What Kim wanted was far less obvious.
If there is another chapter in Anthony Kim’s public story, we should hope it’s fulfilling, and interesting, and something we might not expect. Maybe 2021 will hold more answers. Until then we’ll cling to memories and Instagram photos — and wonder what might have been.