Anthony Kim won tournaments at Quail Hollow and Congressional, starred in the Ryder Cup and climbed to No. 6 in the world ranking. That was two years ago, and it would seem the 24-year-old Californian would strive to get back to that level.
But as he makes his PGA Tour debut this week in Los Angeles, Kim is aiming higher.
“After the year I had two years ago, even though people said it was a breakout year, I don’t feel like I did anything super special,” Kim said Tuesday morning while driving to Riviera. “I would like to do something super special this year.”
And what does he have in mind?
“Win golf tournaments,” he said. “Nobody cares if you finish in the top 10.”
Even before Tiger Woods took his indefinite break, Kim figured to get plenty of attention in what could be a pivotal year to determine whether he makes the most of his talent or makes excuses.
For a guy like Kim, it’s a backhanded compliment when the PGA Tour refers to his 2009 season in the media guide this way: “Despite failing to reach the career-best numbers he posted in 2008, (he) still managed to finish No. 35 in the FedEx Cup standings.”
Kim said his only entourage this year will be his personal assistant, caddie and occasionally his swing coach, another change from having a posse of buddies with him at most tournaments.
He already has managed to be in the news this year. Kim became the scapegoat for the Bob Hope Classic’s weak field when he was among nine PGA Tour players who took releases to play in Abu Dhabi. All nine were European Tour members, six of them were Europeans. Kim took heat as the only American, not to mention a kid who went to high school a few miles from the tournament.
Kim offered no apologies, saying that he will be playing more PGA Tour events than the 22 he played last year.
“We’re trying to grow the game everywhere. It’s not just about the PGA Tour,” he said. “If golf grows on the European Tour, in Asia, that only helps the PGA Tour. That’s where I wanted to start my season.”
Scott McCarron, who seems to be in the news a lot these days, was among those who criticized Kim for skipping the Hope. Perhaps it was just a coincidence, but Kim ran into McCarron on Sunday in the Palm Springs, Calif., area.
He said McCarron tried to explain what he meant in his comments, although Kim didn’t seem terribly interested.
“I saw what Scott said. He’s on the player board (Players Advisory Council), and his opinion got out in the media more than it usually would, or would at all,” Kim said. “I saw him a couple of days ago, briefly. He mentioned something about it. But he really didn’t bring it up to me, so there was really nothing for me to say to him.”
Going into a pivotal year, Kim is mainly interested in delivering a message through his scores.
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VOTAW DIVORCED: Less than four years after Ty Votaw married Sophie Gustafson of Sweden, whom he began dating while still commissioner of the LPGA, the couple has divorced.
According to records in St. Johns County, Fla., the marriage was dissolved Jan. 25, and the judge ordered the case sealed a day later. Votaw is the PGA Tour’s chief spokesman, who also spearheaded the successful bid to get golf back in the Olympics. Gustafson has 23 victories worldwide and has played on the last seven Solheim Cup teams.
Votaw took on some controversy and even an LPGA board review of the relationship (it saw no conflict) when he began dating Gustafson in 2002 after his first marriage ended in divorce. He retired as LPGA commissioner in 2005, and they married in June 2006.
Contacted by e-mail, Votaw declined to comment.
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STICKING WITH WHAT WORKS: Steve Stricker was a rising American star in 1996 when he won twice and finished No. 4 on the PGA Tour money list. Endorsement offers followed, Stricker changed clubs and it was a contributing factor to his plunge into obscurity.
Even in the midst of a great revival, Stricker is mindful not to repeat history.
He has stuck with Titleist while climbing to No. 3 in the world ranking and becoming a staple on Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams. And he is hesitant to fix what’s not broken.
Stricker is still using the 755 irons, which he first began using four years ago. Titleist has come out with two new versions from that model of irons, yet Stricker isn’t about to change. He even has duct tape on one club where a plastic label has come off.
“I have a hard time coming off the years I had and changing something,” Stricker said.
Not that he’s unwilling to try. Stricker had the new Titleist AP2 irons in his bag at the Chevron World Challenge in December and shot a 65 in the final round at Sherwood to finish 10th. When he arrived in Hawaii, his old clubs were back in play.
“I’m kind of snakebit from 13 years ago,” Stricker said. “I’m very cautious to change.”
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DALY DOINGS: John Daly already has received two sponsor exemptions on the PGA Tour this year. Pebble Beach is not one of them.
The AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am has one of the more peculiar criteria. It takes winners of the tournament, the four majors and The Players Championship dating to 2005 – and all such winners before 2000.
Daly qualifies because of his majors (1991 and 1995), while Todd Hamilton (2004 British Open) does not. Matt Gogel (now retired) would not be eligible for winning Pebble in 2002, while Brett Ogle would be eligible for winning in 1993.
Daly, meanwhile, said on Twitter that his partner next week would be Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo.
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DIVOTS: Ben Crane has three PGA Tour trophies, two of them collector’s items – the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee and AT&T Classic outside Atlanta no longer exist. … The Women’s British Open continues to build a strong rotation, announcing it will be played at Royal Liverpool for the first time in 2012. Among other things, the Hoylake links hosted the inaugural British Amateur in 1885. … The Royal Bank of Canada is expanding its golf sponsorship, adding personal endorsements with Fred Couples, Luke Donald and Morgan Pressel. RBC already had deals with Anthony Kim, Mike Weir and Stephen Ames.
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STAT OF THE WEEK: The first four PGA Tour events have been decided by one shot. The last time that happened was in 2002, when two of those events were decided in playoffs.
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FINAL WORD: “I hope somebody using a Ping wedge wins the U.S. Open. Especially if it’s me.” – Joe Ogilvie.