Sports

A Look at the Strange Disappearance of Former PGA Tour Phenom Anthony Kim

In 2008, 23-year-old Anthony Kim was the hottest golfer on the PGA Tour not named Tiger Woods. And at times, it seemed like Kim could actually be the next Tiger. He had the talent. He had the swag. He had the personality. He was ranked in the top 10 in the world and teamed up with Phil Mickelson at the Ryder Cup, where he also had one of the biggest wins of his career in singles play.

Simply put, Anthony Kim had that “it” factor and he cashed in on it by signing a multimillion-dollar endorsement deal with Nike. He seemed destined for a long and successful career and it just didn’t happen. Injuries set in and it’s been nearly eight years to the day since he last hit a shot on the PGA Tour. So what exactly happened to Anthony Kim?

Anthony Kim made an immediate impact on the PGA Tour

After three years at Oklahoma, Anthony Kim turned pro in September 2006 and on a sponsor’s exemption finished tied for second in his very first PGA Tour start at the Valero Texas Open. One week later, he tied for 16th at the Southern Farm Bureau Classic. He went to Q-School in December, earned his card, and hit the ground running in 2007, carding 10 top-25 finishes, four of those in the top 10. He earned more than $1.5 million in his first full season on tour and things only got better from there.

In May 2008, Anthony Kim won his first PGA Tour title at the age of 22, dusting the field at the Wachovia Championship with a five-stroke victory and what at the time was the tournament’s lowest score in history. Kim turned 23 in June and got his second win in July at the AT&T National, the tournament hosted by Tiger Woods. With his victory, he joined Woods as being one of the youngest players in history to win two PGA Tour events in a season. The win also moved Kim into the 14th spot in the Official World Golf Ranking and he then got his first top-10 finish at a major with a T-7 finish at The Open Championship. He moved up to No. 6 in the world with a pair of T-3 finishes at the final two FedEx Cup Playoff events.

At the Ryder Cup at Valhalla in September 2008, Kim paired with Phil Mickelson to go 1-1-1 in doubles action and got the U.S. rolling in Sunday singles play with a 5&4 beatdown of Sergio Garcia to help the Americans to their first win over Europe since 1999. Kim had solidified himself as one of the great young players in golf and was now an absolute star.

The beginning of the end

While he didn’t have the success he did in 2008, Anthony Kim had a solid 2009 season, a season in which he helped the U.S. to a Presidents Cup title with another stellar performance. He also set a Masters record, which still stands to this day, with 11 birdies in his second round on the way to a top-20 finish. The following year, he finished in solo third at Augusta. The week before, he won his third PGA Tour event at the Shell Houston Open, becoming just the fifth player in 30 years to win three titles before reaching the age of 25. He followed up The Masters with a T-7 finish at Quail Hollow but things would go downhill from there.

Injuries forced Anthony Kim to miss three months of action and he missed the cut in four of five events upon his return, which in turn made him miss out on the 2010 Ryder Cup. He had just two top-10s in 2011 in 26 events and, still dealing with a multitude of injuries, had a miserable start to begin the 2012 season. He missed the cut in his first three starts, was disqualified in his fourth outing, and finished no higher than 42nd in his next three starts, which included a final-round 83 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

In April 2012, he withdrew from the Shell Houston Open and then skipped The Masters. He returned at the Valero Texas Open and withdrew again. On May 3, 2012, Anthony Kim shot a 2-over round of 74 in the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship and then withdrew from that tournament as well. Little did golf fans know that it would be the last round Anthony Kim would ever play on the PGA Tour.

There have been rumors that an insurance policy kept Anthony Kim from returning to the PGA Tour

Anthony Kim had injured his Achilles tendon and had surgery in June 2012. He was expected to return to the PGA Tour in nine to 12 months. Eight years later, we’re still waiting. Kim could have returned to the tour on a medical exemption but it just never happened. Injury after injury occurred in rehab and he was just done with the game of golf. In 2014, Golf Channel reported that he wasn’t playing golf at all, not even for fun. Later that year, famed golf writer Alan Shipnuck wrote a very interesting article for “Sports Illustrated” which said that Kim might be staying away from the game due to a massive insurance policy he had taken out to protect himself if injuries did hurt his career. While this was never confirmed nor denied by Anthony Kim himself, the article did have quotes from those associated with him.

“The answer very well may lie in an insurance policy Kim has against a career-ending injury. An IMG source pegged its value at $10 million, tax-free. Kim’s friend, who has had financial discussions with him, says, ‘It’s significantly north of that. Not quite 20, but close. That is weighing on him, very much so. He’s trying to weigh the risk of coming back. The way he’s phrased it to me is, ‘If I take one swing on Tour, the policy is voided.'”

Alan Shipnuck on Anthony Kim

Nobody really knows the truth and it seems like Anthony Kim, still just 34, wants it that way. He doesn’t give interviews and simply wants to live his life. He has at least come out and said that he saved more money than people think. But it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing Anthony Kim back in the spotlight anytime soon. A little over a year ago, a friend to GOLF.com, Benjamin Bujnowski, told the website that he’d randomly run into him in West Hollywood and asked him how his golf was. Anthony Kim’s answer?

“Um…non-existent.”

Anthony Kim

The mystery continues.