Kim has some fun, keeps it simple
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - With Phil Mickelson, John Daly, Tom Watson and Stuart Appleby missing the cut and Sergio Garcia out of contention, many people thought all of the big names playing in The Greenbrier Classic were mere afterthoughts into Saturday.
But they were wrong.
Anthony Kim somehow managed to lurk just below the surface over the first two days at 2 under par, but he made his presence felt in a big way with a bogey-free 8-under 62 to seize the lead after moving day. Kim, now 10 under for the tournament, will enter today's final round with a one-shot advantage over Scott Stallings.
Kim said the key to Saturday's round was simply enjoying himself.
"I was having a lot of fun," he said. "I haven't had this much fun playing golf in a long time. Even when I wasn't hitting the ball particularly well, I had a lot of fun."
With the emergence of young players like Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler and Jason Day, it's easy to forget that Kim was once at the forefront of golf's youth movement. He finished second in his first PGA Tour start as a pro at the age of 20, and in 2008 he became the first American under 25 to win twice in a year since Tiger Woods in 2000.
Kim is only 25 and feels his game is still improving.
But perhaps one reason Kim's name is no longer mentioned among the game's great young players as much is because his game had hit a rough patch as of late. He has made just 12 of 21 cuts this season and his position at No. 92 on this year's FedExCup points list is a career low.
"I can't tell you the last time that I ever played golf where I was not wanting to be on a golf course," Kim said. "But for the last sixth months before the British Open, I just did not want to be on the golf course.
"I didn't know where the ball was going and I was just hoping it would bounce out of the trees. It wasn't a matter of it going in the rough, it was a matter of it bouncing in or out of bounds. People may think I'm exaggerating, but this is how tough this game got for me."
Kim has shown signs of turning it around as he tied for fifth at the British Open a couple of weeks ago.
But after a second-round 81 in last week's RBC Canadian Open and a disqualification after signing an incorrect score card, Kim said his mother was instrumental in propelling him to the success he's experiencing so far this week.
"She and I had a conversation after I shot 81 at the Canadian Open the second day," Kim said. "It was just about having fun and relaxing and enjoying the position I'm in, because I'm very fortunate to be playing golf for a living, and sometimes you forget about that."
To illustrate the change in Kim's mental approach, there was an incident on Friday in which Kim cracked the face of a 3-wood on an approach shot on the 17th. The ball ended up short of the green.
Kim, a self-diagnosed club breaker, gathered himself and made a cool-headed decision. He signed the club and gave it to a kid in the gallery.
In addition to a tweak in attitude, Kim said he has tried to stop over-thinking things.
"I've tried to simplify things a little bit more and not get so caught up in how far I've got to hit this ball," Kim said. "If I have to hit it 170 yards, I just hit my 8-iron and I don't think about anything else. It's been a lot easier to hit golf shots that way."
With a similar round today, Kim could prove that thinking less means winning more.
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948 or ryan.pr...@wvgazette.com.