LIV ‘troll bots’ little concern to PGA Tour’s latest social-media star
If you’re one of Tour pro Michael Kim’s 108,000 X followers, you’ve learned some stuff from his feed in the past week or so, as you likely did the week before that and the week before that. For instance:
— Though Kim has swapped out driver heads throughout his nine-year PGA Tour career, he has remained loyal to his AD Pro shaft (“I think the kick and spin profile just matches great for me”);
— Kim has found that his amateur partners in pro-ams tend to be “more interesting” than his fellow pros;
— While waiting out a flight delay in Hawaii, Kim sprawled out on the terminal floor and fashioned his launch-monitor bag as a pillow (he posted the photo to prove it).
Some Tour pros are more giving of insight and color than others on social media, and over the past year-plus, few have been more generous than Kim. Though not a household name — his sole Tour win came at the 2018 John Deere Classic — Kim, who is 30, has carved out a name (and a handle) for himself in the recesses of Golf Twitter by delighting his followers with insidery nuggets about life on the PGA Tour.
That intel has included everything from details on course setups and playing strategy, to a cheating incident he witnessed, to — one of my personal favorite shares — how much free schwag the pros get. “Golf balls: we get 3 dozen every week (4 for majors lol),” Kim dished last fall in a post that was viewed 1.6 million times. “I go thru 2 dozen during the tournament rounds (2 sleeves per round) and 2 sleeves during tue, wed. Gloves: We get 4 each week, depends on the weather but I generally go thru 2-3. Hats: 3 per week.”
Great stuff, right?
Makes you wonder why Kim, who clearly has an acute understanding of what golf audiences desire, was such a relative latecomer to the social space. As players such as Ian Poulter, Bryson DeChambeau and (for better or for worse) Phil Mickelson harnessed the brand-expanding powers of X, Instagram and TikTok, Kim only dabbled.
That began to change in the fall of 2022, soon after he and his old pal, Max Homa, played in the Fortinet Championship, in Northern California. Kim and Homa were teammates at Cal-Berkley, but when they joined the Tour after college, they found that playing consistently well at such a high level was no small task.
“For whatever reason, Max and my career, we never really matched up,” Kim said this week from his hometown event, the Farmers Insurance Open, at Torrey Pines, in San Diego. “When I was playing well, he was playing bad and when he was playing well, I was playing bad. So I hadn’t really seen his following grow as much.”
But that week at the Fortinet, Kim couldn’t not see it. Homa’s homies were everywhere, a byproduct not only of Homa’s improved form (he would go on to win that week) but also of his social-media prowess. By engaging in a lively, humorous and honest way with his fans, Homa had grown into one of the game’s must-follows.
“I think that week was a big eye-opener in seeing the following that he had, seeing the crowd that he drew,” Kim said. “Certainly that was a bit of a catalyst for make thinking maybe I can use Twitter or X as something to grow, quote unquote, my brand. That was probably the biggest start point of it all.”
Kim was off and run — well, tweeting. In February 2023, he bucked up for a blue check mark so he could post longer instructional videos. In May, from the Byron Nelson, he tweeted about “a mystery player or caddy” that had been writing AimPoint percentages on a practice green. On June 6, the day the PGA Tour and PIF announced their framework agreement, Kim was one of the first players to share his thoughts, tweeting among other observations: “Most of the players feels betrayed by the leadership.”
Of course, as anyone who has spent more than about 7 seconds on social media knows, for all the benefits of X, it also can be a dark and twisted place. And the more you put yourself out there, the more you risk exposing yourself to that gloom. Has Kim had to overcome much needling and mean-spiritedness, he was asked this week.
“For the most part, I feel like a lot of it’s been pretty positive, to be honest, considering it is usually somewhat negative,” he said. “It’s usually like the LIV troll bots that are kind of commenting once in a while on the negative stuff. Those guys are sending out tweets to every PGA Tour player, so those are pretty easy to ignore. For the most part, I feel like everyone has been pretty positive about some of the stuff that I’ve been tweeting.”
At the American Express event, in La Quinta, Calif., last week, Kim was reminded of his burgeoning celebrity when he was grouped with amateur partners who follow him on X. Fans are starting to give him love, too.
“Once in a while I’ll get someone from the crowd recognizing me, which as a kind of a regular PGA Tour player is pretty rare,” Kim said. “Those moments kind of show me that I’m doing something good, I guess. I think it’s those moments that kind of surprise me, like, oh, my gosh, you actually recognize me compared to the next guy? Those kind of moments are probably the positives.”