Anthony Kim speaks at last: 'I played my whole career without a full deck'

In a LIV Golf-produced video, Anthony Kim starts to talk about his way back to golf

Anthony Kim is playing again. (Jason Butler/Getty Images)
Anthony Kim is playing again. (Jason Butler/Getty Images)

There’s a hell of a story to be told about the rise, fall and rebirth of Anthony Kim. “The Journey Back,” a new in-house LIV Golf documentary with David Feherty, isn’t quite it … but there’s enough there for a start.

Kim was one of the golf world’s top stars around the turn of the 2010s, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and an electric presence both at the Ryder Cup and the Masters. He still holds the record for most birdies in a single round at Augusta, with 11. But he withdrew from the Wells Fargo after one round in May 2012, underwent Achilles surgery the next month, and then vanished …

… right up until he showed up on the first tee at a LIV Golf event in Hong Kong earlier this year. He hasn’t spoken publicly about what he did during that intervening decade-plus, but rumors have swirled for years, starting with the theory that Kim had stepped away from the game because of an insurance settlement.

In the course of “The Journey Back,” airing on the LIV Golf Plus app and site, Kim disputes that particular rumor but doesn’t offer many specifics about his absence from the game, aside from the fact that he had multiple significant surgeries, including a spinal fusion. Oh, and that he apparently spent the first months after his golf career ended in the company of six dogs and two monkeys at his house.

The main issue with the 20-minute documentary — which, to be clear, is meant as a promotion of LIV Golf rather than as a deep examination of Kim’s demons — is that the key topics in Kim’s life are brought up momentarily and then dropped. Feherty — who has wrestled with demons of his own — is a good choice to start the conversation with Kim, but it shouldn’t end there.

'I literally don't remember those times'

“I played my whole career without a full deck,” says Kim, who rocketed to fame in his early 20s and found himself in the center of a fame whirlwind, completely unprepared for all of it.

“I literally don’t remember those times,” he says. “You figure at 22, 23, 24 you’re supposed to be doing these [wild] things, but with the personality I have, it’s an addictive personality, it can get out of hand.” Kim estimates he’s probably rid himself of “98 percent” of the people around him during those days.

“I was around some bad people,” he says. “People that took advantage of me. Scam artists. When you’re 24, 25, even 30 years old, you don’t realize the snakes that are living under your roof.”

That would seem to be an ideal spot for further discussion and investigation, and perhaps that’s coming. But Feherty sticks to the big-picture topics, including how much — or how little — Kim was playing golf.

According to Kim, he hadn’t played any golf until about three months ago, when he started teaching his wife the game. Soon afterward, LIV Golf CEO Greg Norman called him, and that put the thought in Kim’s mind that perhaps he could play at a competitive level again.

“I have an interesting relationship with golf,” Kim says. “I don’t think I ever loved it. What’s weird now is that I’m falling in love with the game.”

'I hope I can inspire somebody'

Virtually everything about Kim is different physically from his 2010-era stardom: his physique, his face, his gait. He’s clearly lived a rough life in the last 12 years.

“I had battles mentally that I never talked about to anybody and kept to myself,” he says. “I started to turn my life around about a year and a half ago.” He credits his wife, and especially his 2-year-old daughter Bella, for giving him purpose.

The thing with a long, slow fall like Kim’s is, it’s a long, slow crawl back to the surface. Kim has all the opportunity in the world right now, and he’s talking like a man who’s grateful for the second chance.

“My mistakes are the reason I fell into this deep hole,” he says. “I hope that I can inspire somebody to dig out of a hole. If they don’t see light at the end of the tunnel, hopefully they find some strength in the people around them and they can get out of it.”

Because this is a LIV Golf production, Feherty asks Kim for his thoughts on the team concept, as well as the Ryder Cup. Kim, to his credit, is keeping focused on “the 18 holes in front of me.”

“How about majors?” Feherty asks. “Think you’ve got one in you?”

Kim laughs the disbelieving laugh of a man asked to scale a 10-story building. “I mean, if they’re handing them out,” he says, “I’m willing to accept them.”

There’s a fascinating story about fame, ambition and redemption to be told about Anthony Kim. “The Journey Back” is a beginning. Here’s hoping he shares more, starting this weekend at the LIV Golf event in Miami.