This new Anthony Kim is a long way from the Anthony Kim of old

anthony kim in 2024 and anthony kim in 2020

Anthony Kim this week and, right, in 2008.

getty images

DORAL, Fla. — There’s an image of Anthony Kim that’s been in your head for 12 years now. It got planted on a Saturday night in 2012, at the Beer Hunter, a sprawling sports bar in Rancho Mirage, Calif., screens in every direction. Kim had just missed the 54-hole cut in the old Bob Hope tournament, with rounds of 70, 70 and 77. Now he was making the rounds at the Hunter, an iced drink in each hand, feeling no pain.

His smile, accentuated by his Tour-issued perma-tan, was dazzling, and his energy level was manic, with more people around him than he knew what to do with. He was talking a lot about boxing and basketball and not at all about golf. He deposited one or two of his new, young friends at your table and, like a shark, kept on moving, in search of livelier action.

He was 26, a millionaire bachelor loaded with promise and speed all through the bag. Anthony Kim was the picture of what-up nonchalance, on that night and a thousand others like it. On the outside? He was a study in it.

But the 38-year-old Anthony Kim knows this other version of himself far better now than he did then. It was all kind of an act, on that night and a thousand others like it, pretending to be the life of the party.

His pain was physical and psychic and more than he could manage. He did what he could to mask it. He can see it all more clearly now. “I got professional help,” he said. It takes a big man to utter that short sentence. He was sitting on a barstool chair on a riser in an in an arctic ballroom/media center at Trump Doral, where he would be playing his first competitive golf in the United States in well more than a decade.

Addicts have all sorts of tricks, until they don’t. Kim’s been born again, not in the religious sense. He’s playing LIV Golf this year on a one-year, wild-card contract. He took a deal, with LIV looking for the promise of upside. LIV Golf is a business. Businesses of every kind need stories to tell. LIV’s been struggling in this regard, because the starting point for every LIV story, pretty much, is money. The terms of Kim’s deal are unknown — last place at each LIV event pays $50,000 — but Kim’s story could reach people who don’t know that Bubba Watson is the RangeGoats’ captain, and who go cold at the very mention of the June 6 accords. But for this whole thing to work, this Anthony Kim coming out party, for the golfer and for LIV, he has to shoot low scores. And that will not be easy.

“I wouldn’t be out here if I didn’t think I could win again,” Kim said early on Friday night. He had just signed for a 76. Of the 54 players in the field, only four scores were higher. Right beside him was his wife, Emily, and in his hands was their daughter, Isabella. The toll of hard living is evident in his voice and on his face.

This is a brave thing he is doing, returning to public life.

Anthony Kim finally spoke about his past. But he didn’t divulge everything
By: Alan Bastable

In a lengthy interview with David Feherty, and in a pre-tournament press conference with reporters, Kim talked about the role his wife and daughter have made in keeping him alive. He’s been straightforward in his responses to questions while acknowledging he’s holding back some information, “for my documentary.” 

“He’s incredibly serene, which is what any addict wants,” Feherty said the other day in a LIV broadcast. Feherty’s own life has made him an expert on addiction and its costs. In the life of an addict, the scariest word is relapse. The unofficial language of Trump Doral is Spanish, and a Spanish woman on the course, rooting for Kim to succeed, offered a Spanish word that she believes could be helpful now: “Arropado. Arropado!” Wrapped by other people.

“I’ve got some people who are helping me right now, keeping me on the right track,” Kim said Friday night. Golf’s greatest and most celebrated cliché is one swing at a time — don’t get ahead of yourself! — and the recovery movement’s most celebrated cliché is one day at a time. But they’re necessary starting points, these two phrases, for Anthony Kim.

It was wild just seeing him at the Blue Monster, warming up on the same range that Jack Nicklaus, Greg Norman and Tiger Woods once wore out. When he won three Tour events before turning 25, you wondered: Could Anthony Kim’s life take him into golf’s pantheon? Anything seemed possible then. But who could have predicted this Friday afternoon scene? An electronic scoreboard clock behind him ticking away toward a 1:15 shotgun tee time. A solitary place on the far right of the range, Miami funk in the air, making some good swings with some clunkers in between them, trying to get his golf life back, but far more focused in his life life. Nobody said this would be easy.

Anthony Kim in the first round of LIV Miami. getty images

He was wearing baggy shorts, high-top socks, a baggy shirt, the tails out, a longish ponytail dangling south from his baseball cap. Remember his old AK belt buckles, the size of a salad plate? He wore them with so much uncommon golfing bravado, Oscar de la Hoya meeting Young Tom Morris. This Anthony Kim shares nothing with that Anthony Kim. Friday afternoon was spectacular here, Florida sunshine bounding off the course’s dark ponds, white-sand bunkers, Bermuda-grass rough, the rare steel shaft. The sunshine bounding off the short metal shafts in Kim’s wedges, but that was about it. When you’re coming out of a hole, sparkle is the last thing you’re thinking about.

He seems serious and sober, but not depressed. At breakfast with some friends the other morning, his back to an omelet station, he was animated and loose, telling stories and enjoying the hang. But he’s on a short leash. Asked the other day if he’s considering trying to qualify for the U.S. Open, Kim said, “My focus is on LIV Golf.” LIV Golf comes with guarantees. There are seven more regular-season events and already he has played in three. Most professional golf offers nothing. Nothing at all.

“Even when I was playing well, I don’t think I enjoyed golf,” Kim said Friday night. “Right now, I’m actually enjoying practicing, which is something that has never happened before.”

Kim and his wife and daughter live on a golf course in Oklahoma City. Golf is available to him. “I can see progress already, even though the scores aren’t showing it.” That, of course, is one of golf’s greatest clichés. One of its greatest clichés, and one of its most useful thoughts. If you’re always on the lookout for progress, you’re going to find it.

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at

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