Back from surgery, Kim struggles at Firestone

Anthony Kim eyes a putt at the Ballantine's Championship.

Anthony Kim eyes a putt at the Ballantine's Championship.

AKRON, Ohio – If it were about ego, Anthony Kim concedes he’d be at home in Dallas.

After all, “it’s tough to hang in there when your score is going one way and the leaders are going another way,” Kim said.

He had just signed for a 75, which was third-worst among the 41 players who just completed the morning wave at the Bridgestone Invitational.

Only Henrik Stenson (79) and Michael Jonzon (76) turned in higher scores than Kim, though neither of them could rationalize the score quite like the young American. That’s because he was making his first appearance since undergoing surgery May 5 to repair a damaged left thumb.

“It felt fine, nothing that a couple of birdies won’t take care of,” Kim said.

Kim had tried to play with the pain and a solid stretch of results indicated he was doing a pretty good job of it – a win in Houston, third at the Masters, T-7 at Quail Hollow. But the 25-year-old looked down the road, worried that the injury could worsen and affect his Ryder Cup participation, and opted for surgery. That meant sitting out the U.S. Open and British Open – 13 weeks in all. It was tough, but Kim suggested he made the right move.

“It’s hard to play golf when you’re not at the top of your game,” Kim said. “Do I think I’m playing well enough to win? I don’t know, but I’m in a good spot.”

Kim hadn’t even played recreational golf or practiced before arriving at Firestone Country Club. He played eight holes Tuesday and nine Wednesday, and the rust was evident. Kim bogeyed his first hole, was 3 over through seven, then after making his lone birdie (at the par-4 18th), he played the front in 3-over 38.

Still, he could smile. He’s guaranteed three more rounds in this no-cut event and has hopes of being more competitive for next week’s PGA Championship. But the greater goal, he repeated, was to be in great form for the Ryder Cup.

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