Home SPORTS Anthony Kim’s low-risk, high-reward return is good news. Who cares what the...

Anthony Kim’s low-risk, high-reward return is good news. Who cares what the ‘haters’ think?

Anthony Kim’s low-risk, high-reward return is good news. Who cares what the ‘haters’ think?

There’s one big question looming over Anthony Kim’s impending return, and it’s not “Why?” or “Why now?” or “Why LIV?” It’s this:

Who, exactly, are the “haters” Kim is calling out in his slick “I’m back” video?

Kim was one of the most beloved figures on Tour for the brief time he was active, from about 2008 to 2012. He won three times on Tour, set a record that still stands for most birdies in a single round at the Masters, and gave the PGA Tour and the Ryder Cup a needed dose of personality and joy. Injury sidelined him, and he capital-V Vanished from the entire golf world after 2012. Yes, people wondered what happened to him … but only because they wanted to see more.

Now Kim is back, joining the LIV Golf tour for the full 2024 season as a wild-card individual player. The world is a whole lot different from when Kim last played, but it’s also a whole lot different from when LIV started, which makes the “Hello, haters” angle so strange. It’s the kind of needlessly adversarial, pointlessly aggressive mouthiness that LIV tried early on, and all it did was antagonize golf fans.

Back in 2022, you could argue that LIV was all smoke and no fire, all sizzle and no steak, disruption without endgame. Now, though? Now LIV has one of the world’s most talented players in its stable, with recent major winners throughout its ranks. LIV also boasts almost all of the game’s most charismatic and colorful characters — yeah, sometimes that can mean “jerks,” but so what? — and LIV has achieved its goal of altering the trajectory of professional golf.

Now comes Kim, who was a celebrated figure in his day and a what-ever-happened-to folk hero ever since. A whole lot of people are interested to see what’s next for AK; every sighting of him over the past decade has thrilled a segment of the golf audience. He returns a little puffier — no judgment, time thickens us all — with an uncertain game and a story he’s not yet telling.

“I’ll tell my story when it’s the right time,” he says in another well-produced LIV video, “but right now I’m focused on golf.”

Now 38, Kim had a lot of binary options here. He could have chosen never to play golf again, which obviously would’ve been tough for someone raised on the game. He could have chosen to go with the PGA Tour, which would have offered him more prestige but no guaranteed money and few available starts.

He opted to go with LIV, which likely gave him more financial security thanks to its no-cut events. He’ll be a wild card for the rest of the season, and if he plays well enough, he’s in line for a whole lot more than that. He’s starting his season on the far side of the planet from most U.S.-based media — in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia — giving him a chance to get some reps without many intrusive questions.

He also opted for the “hello, haters” angle rather than the “hello, world” one. Since Kim isn’t giving any interviews yet, it’s uncertain how online he’s been since 2012, but the haters have metastasized since then; provoking them isn’t going to make them back down in fear, and anything short of a Kim Slam wouldn’t silence them.

But that’s not happening, not in 2024. Unless he qualifies his way into the U.S. Open or Open Championship, he won’t play in any majors; he has no existing exemptions, and he currently holds the same spot in the Official World Rankings as you do. There’s no pathway for players like Kim to go directly from LIV to the majors — not yet, anyway — so for now, that’s the only place you’ll see Kim in action.

He won’t be stateside until early April, when LIV Golf returns to the United States for a Miami stop. Before then, he’ll have this weekend in Jeddah and next weekend in Hong Kong, and by then, we’ll have a better idea what kind of game he still has. By then, he’ll also have a chance to ditch the “haters” talk … or double down on it, if he doesn’t play well. Lobbing the first shot in a battle that hadn’t yet even begun, and might not have ever happened, was definitely a choice.

Maybe Kim flames out, stumbling his way through LIV events like some of the other legends of the early 2010s still on the tour. Maybe he catches fire, rediscovers his stroke and becomes a hero to a whole new generation. Maybe he just plays a few tournaments of even-par golf, cashes a few big checks and enjoys the competitive life again for a while. Every option is open, and every option will be fun to watch, regardless of whatever any haters think.

Just get out there and play some golf, AK, and take what comes. You and LIV don’t need to shove it in everyone’s face. Everyone’s glad you’re back.

Source link