Anthony Kim finally is coming out of hiding. So, what now?

So, Anthony Kim is going to play tournament golf again, the LIV Golf way. That is, payment up front. For more than a decade now, Kim has been paid, by an insurance company, not to play. This week, at a LIV event in Saudi Arabia, Kim will start a new chapter of his enigmatic life.

Good luck, kid.

Excuse me, this just in: He’s 38.

Well, good luck, Mr. Kim.

To give this news the gravitas it doesn’t deserve, GOLF.com reported on Jan. 25 that Kim was considering a return to tournament golf. Word of Kim’s Saudi start first surfaced on X over the weekend by way of @FlushingIt and @LIVGolfUpdates, and soon after Golf Channel reporter Rex Hoggard, as well-sourced as anybody covering the professional game today, gave the news more credibility with a story citing unnamed sources. LIV still hasn’t officially confirmed that Kim is in the Jeddah field, but on Monday morning, it came awfully close, dropping a moody teaser video that showed images of Kim hitting shots against a desertscape. Greg Norman and his people must have made it worth Kim’s while to sign with LIV — for how many appearances we don’t know — just as they did for various other golfers with familiar names and past-post games.

Kim has not played any tournament golf anywhere since June 2012, when he had surgery on his left Achilles tendon. It has been widely and credibly reported that Kim, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, accepted an insurance-policy payment that paid him at least $10 million, and maybe much more, but prevented him from playing tournament golf. He became golf’s Greta Garbo, disappearing from the golf scene altogether.

The details of Kim’s insurance policy are not publicly known, but it is possible that its terms have simply expired, leaving him open to return to professional golf. He could have tried to stage a comeback on the PGA Tour, playing in events by sponsor’s exemption or by using his Past Champion status. But that tried-and-true comeback method would have come with no guarantees. The starting point to the LIV Golf model is a contract with guarantees.

Pay to play is the LIV way, and the fundamental difference between LIV Golf and every other prominent tour in the world, including the PGA, LPGA and DP World tours. On those circuits and others, and by long-standing tradition, tournaments paid players on the basis of the numbers on their scorecards. They earn it wasn’t a marketing phrase. It was a founding principle. The emergence of LIV Golf has challenged that principle.

Meanwhile, LIV figured out what the rest of the world has known forever: People love free money.

Bubba Watson, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Pat Perez and some of the other LIV players should throw a party for Kim, welcoming him to the money-for-nothing club. The PGA Tour v. LIV Golf debate was not likely that complicated for Kim. Show me the money had to be a motivating factor for him.  

close up of anthony kim's blinged-out belt buckle
Anthony Kim might return to pro golf. What’s his value if he does?
By: Alan Bastable

In his early 20s, Kim was a spectacular talent. There was something galvanizing about him, this diminutive kid choking up on the driver and killing it with a long, flowing follow-through. He was so light on his feet, like a lightweight boxer, and he had so much speed with every club, plus the flying mullet at impact. He was Brooks Koepka before there was a Brooks Koepka, but Kim seemed to take himself much less seriously. He was refreshingly outside the country-club system, and he could shoot 66 on a hard course and make it look easy, fun and meaningless.

But that was 15 years and at least one major tendon surgery ago. Of the 24 players on the 2008 Ryder Cup team, there’s not one who plays better golf now. Kim was a star on that team, though sometimes AWOL from the rest of his teammates. He’s always sort of done his own thing.

Kim might play well on easy courses, where you can drive it anywhere and your pitching and chipping off flat lies with perfect grass to welcome-mat greens. That’s what he’ll find at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Jeddah, where he’ll reportedly make his LIV debut on March 1, 2 and 3, in a no-cut, 54-hole event featuring 54 players, two of whom, Kim and one other, will have no team affiliation. It would be much harder to imagine Kim qualifying for a U.S. Open by way of a 36-hole qualifier on a short, tight course with little greens and wet rough.

If you’re looking to see Kim play in any of the four majors this year, don’t hold your breath. If you’re looking to watch the Saudi event live and on a screen near you, tell your smart speaker to play the CW Network, if you can make the play and your sleep schedule align. At least you’ll get to hear the wit and wisdom of David Feherty, the lead broadcaster for LIV on the CW. Riyadh is eight hours ahead of East Coast time in the United States.

Charlie Woods and Anthony Kim were both in the spotlight this week
Tour Confidential: Anthony Kim’s return? The Charlie Woods dilemma and more
By: GOLF Editors

One of the points that Greg Norman, the LIV CEO, likes to make is that golf does not begin and end in the United States. The legendary Australian golfer was a globe-trotter all his life, just as Gary Player was before him.

For Norman and LIV and its Saudi backers, signing Anthony Kim is a shrewd marketing move. No matter what he shoots in this first tournament, and in any other LIV tournaments he plays this year, the golf-loving public will want to see this guy in action, whether those fans are tuning in or actually going to a tournament.

But it also shows the fundamental objection that many tradition-minded golfers have about LIV, that it is a dressed-up exhibition, not a true competition. Kim certainly didn’t earn his spot in next week’s field on the basis of his recent golf. He’s not going to earn an invitation to the Masters on the basis of what he does playing in LIV events.

When Augusta National was trotting out the recent golf successes of the Chilean golfer Joaquin Niemann after he was invited to this year’s Masters, the club did not even mention his LIV affiliation, let alone his LIV successes. LIV Golf lives in a LIV vacuum.

Anthony Kim once shot a Sunday 65 at Augusta, making a heady climb up the club’s old-timey leaderboard, and for a brief and shining moment he was the leader in the house. It was exhilarating. Phil (the winner) finished four strokes ahead of him and Kim nipped Tiger by one. He was young and exciting and knocking on the door of greatness. Nothing he does at the Royal Greens Golf & Country Club next week, or in LIV Golf, is likely to take your breath away, as that day did.

Unless you are Anthony Kim’s accountant.

Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at Michael.Bamberger@Golf.com

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