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After years of missed cuts and subpar play, Kim's ready to get healthy

by | CBSSports.com Senior Golf Columnist
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A struggling Kim finally decides this week to take time off to address his injuries. (Getty Images)  
A struggling Kim finally decides this week to take time off to address his injuries. (Getty Images)  

The young golf fans clamored to get a better look, as kids will do around celebs, and probably didn't take much notice of the semi-splint that was wrapped around Anthony Kim's left forearm.

As a fellow Nike stablemate whacked balls in the late afternoon sun Monday on the range at Colonial Country Club, Anthony Kim wore a microphone headset and did his best to explain to the fawning youngsters at the clinic how top PGA Tour professionals play the game.

For Kim, at the moment, that last part is purely theoretical fare.

"I have been doing a lot of talking," Kim cracked afterward. "I am probably better at doing that -- right now, anyway."

No maybes about it.

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In a development that was quite likely overdue, the struggling 26-year-old this week finally decided to put it in park for the summer as doctors address an array of medical issues and determine whether surgery might be required.

Kim's left arm was wrapped in white from just below the elbow to his wrist as he fights a painful case of tendinitis. His right elbow aches as a result of hitting a rock last month during competition. His medical file has an appendix just for his appendages.

He had surgery on his left thumb two years ago, which is where his professional tailspin truly began. In a mad sprint to make the 2010 Ryder Cup team -- he'd been a key cog in the 2008 win -- Kim came back as soon as he could from the repair of his hand and has rarely looked the same since.

As the Dallas-area resident cruised onto the course to conduct the clinic with Kevin Chappell on Monday, with the PGA Tour circus encamped at Colonial for the week, he was already going through withdrawal -- and his recovery is expected to last until October.

"When I drove onto the property," he said, "it made me really want to come and play."

As you might have heard, Kim doesn't generally sit around, bored and twiddling his thumbs -- even the surgically repaired one -- for long. Doctors have effectively put him under house arrest for the next six weeks, told him not to touch a club or lift any weights, while the arm issue is addressed. He's already received injections to lessen the swelling and pain, but that hasn't done much to fix the fidget factor.

"It's going to be very hard," Kim said. "I am already going stir-crazy."

He's been both shaken and stirred, actually.

This time around, with a medical file that dates back years and is already inches thick, Kim said he intends to hunker down, listen to the folks with stethoscopes, and straighten out this latest medical mash-up before it's too late.

Straight being the key concept here.

Over the past two years, no player has hit more shots sailing over the O.B. stakes, into ponds or backyard hot tubs than has Kim, who has ingrained so many bad habits in his swing as a result of playing through injuries, he's got no clue where the ball is headed. He has made two cuts all year and hit 48.01 percent of his fairways ... which is actually an improvement from 2011, when he ranked dead last in driving accuracy at 46.99 percent.

He played though and around a litany of aches, which led to a series of pains in the form of missed cuts, withdrawals and embarrassing results. His mother recently pointed out that she knows a club caddie who has earned more money this year than Anthony, who has made $33,960, which means he's actually lost money after travel expenses and overhead are deducted.

She also bluntly noted that he isn't fully exempt after this season, though Kim can expect to receive several starts in 2013 as a result of a medical extension. Next year can't get here soon enough, really.

Kim hurt his right elbow at the Texas Open when his club struck a rock, which sailed about 15 yards after impact. As noted, his left arm is just as jacked up. Venus de Milo has better wings.

"It's mainly my left one now," Kim said. "It's been bothering me for a while and it started affecting my golf game way too much. I wasn't even at the point where I could compete unless something crazy happened.

"I didn't want to keep playing hurt because I thought it could hurt my career over the long term."

Has it really been four years since Kim won at Quail Hollow and Congressional to become the first player under age 25 since Tiger Woods to post two victories in the same year? Once ranked as high as No. 6 in the world, he's skidded to 157th and his two-year ranking results look like an alphabet soup. He's finished only 22 of his last 48 starts while racking up 20 missed cuts, four withdrawals and a pair of disqualifications.

This from the guy who made a record 11 birdies in a single round at Augusta National in 2009. Given his world-class skillset, his commitment, reputation and moxie have been repeatedly called into question by fans, assorted gadflies and media.

As Kim told USA Today: "I hear it all the time. I hear it over the locker room doors. You hear people saying, 'What is wrong with him?' 'He doesn't care about golf.'"

They haven't seen the bill for his medical insurance deductible lately.

"I understand completely what people have been saying and all those things, but it's been very tough for me as well," Kims aid. "I have been trying to grind through it, fight through it, and with some things in life, there's no pain, no gain.

"So I kept at it. But I just finally came to the conclusion that I can't keep playing hurt anymore."

Kim was examined by Dr. Thomas Graham of the Cleveland Clinic following his latest withdrawal, from the Wells Fargo Championship, and suggested four to five months of treatment and rehabilitation. Graham handled the surgery on Kim's left thumb two years ago.

While Kim's management firm noted that surgery isn't an option at the moment, that could change, he said.

"We're not planning on it at this point," he said. "We're gonna reevaluate in six weeks."

Cringe.

If there's anything positive to come out of the brutal scenario, it's that Kim is no longer beating his considerably thick head against the wall and actually listening to the counsel of his parents and experts. As lousy as he has played, he can surely need a mental break, too.

"I am not going to come back before I have to," he said. "I always feel like I can compete and I think that's why I have been a good competitor over the years, but I can't keep playing injured.

"It's not fair to me and not fair to the guys I am playing with. If I am withdrawing, I am taking away a chance for some other guy and I don't want to be doing that, either."

It's been hard to track Kim's ailments over the years, including back and shoulder issues, the wrist/thumb surgery, and now the multiple arm ailments.

"I can't wait to get back and work, fully healthy," he said. "I have not been healthy since I played the tour. Even when I went through Q-school, I had a slight fracture in my right ankle.

"I am not making excuses, but I am going deal with this thing this time and come back stronger than I ever was."

If that materializes, then the gifted, magnetic Kim will easily be a top-10 talent, again. If more surgery is needed, given the slew of fresh faces looking to supplant him and the incredible turnover in the global game, he could be all but forgotten before he sniffs age 30.

The possibility of his receiving more surgical stitches is disappointing for any fan who enjoys watching talented players, like Kim or Tiger Woods, playing without a physical handicap.

"You don't need to tell me," Kim said.

As the conversation ended, Kim headed off to sign a few autographs for the kids at the clinic.

Given his run lately, he probably got writer's cramp.

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