Kim’s talent, not his accessories, stand out

It used to be hard to see anything but Anthony Kim’s brashness

in the glare of that rhinestone-studded belt buckle.

On Sunday, all anyone noticed was his prodigious talent.

Kim made a late charge at the Masters on Sunday, playing a

four-hole stretch in only 12 shots to get within two of the lead.

But, playing four groups in front of Phil Mickelson, he ran out of

holes. Stashed away in the locker room by Masters officials and

hoping for a playoff, Kim could only watch as Mickelson birdied 15

to secure his third green jacket.

Still, Kim’s 65 was the best score of the tournament and earned

him third place. At 276, he was four strokes behind Mickelson and

one behind Lee Westwood.

“I knew I was coming from pretty far back and Phil’s obviously

playing great and Lee was playing well,” Kim said. “But I

grinded. I hung in there and I’m proud of the way I stuck it

out.”

The 24-year-old Kim has emerged as one of the tour’s more

appealing personalities the last few years. A street-smart kid from

Los Angeles, he’s got as much in common with the hip-hop generation

as he does the well-heeled golf set. He delighted U.S. fans at the

Ryder Cup two years ago, refusing to concede anything and revving

the crowd up like it was a football game.

And, there’s that belt buckle. Rhinestones surround the letters

“AK” – blinding if the light hits it just right. Suffice it to

say, the tie-wearing Sam Snead never imagined that kind of

accessory.

On the PGA Tour since 2007, Kim has already won three times,

including last week after a playoff in Houston. His game can be as

edgy as his fashion choices, and it can cost him big. He hit only

nine of 14 fairways for a second straight day Sunday, and finishing

at 59 percent.

“I’m going to have to start hitting the ball in the fairway,”

he said. “I think I heard some stat that I was last in driving

again, and that’s not really a stat you want to be last at, when it

really does give you a huge advantage out here to be in the

fairway. So I’m going to work on that and see if I can’t come back

next year and improve on what I did this year.”

Because his drives so often take him to unusual places, Kim goes

for shots other players don’t even try. When he pulls them off,

though, don’t get in his way. Despite finding sand with both his

drive and second shot on 18, he scraped out a par with a 15-foot

putt.

He knocked a tough chip shot to within 18 feet on 13, and made

it for the birdie. He made a 6-footer for another birdie on 14, and

rolled in a putt from 15 feet to eagle No. 15. Then, getting an

assist from playing partner Y.E. Yang, he birdied 16.

“I saw he just missed it on the high side with a little too

much speed,” Kim said. “So I played it with a little less speed

and higher to the right and cashed it.”

But his run would end there.

“Just know that even without my best stuff I hung in there and

I made some putts, I made some things happen,” Kim said. “I feel

like if I get the ball in the fairway, this is a great golf course

for me.”

Kim is still bothered by the torn ligament in his left thumb

that caused him problems last year, and it has started to affect

his swing. While surgery is a last resort, he said he knows he

needs to find some solution.

Because he also knows he can contend with the best of them.

“The attitude I had, the mindset I was in last week (in

Houston) really helped me this week. I feel like I’ve actually

gotten over a little hump in my golf career when I felt like things

were stalling,” Kim said. “I know now that with my attitude, if I

can just get my ball-striking to what it was, I’m going to be at a

different level.”