BLOOMFIELD HILLS, Mich. - Anthony Kim is Vinny Chase in "Entourage," the spoiled brat you just want to hate but can't.
Watch Kim roll into the PGA Championship at Oakland Hills Country Club with the largest posse on the PGA Tour, all young, fresh-faced and cocky like Kim - from hotshot IMG agent Chris Armstrong to the smokin' hot blonde who seems to be there because ... well, what entourage doesn't need a smokin' hot blonde - and you cannot help but see an over-pampered, overindulged sports star whose opinion of himself far exceeds his actual accomplishments.
Stick around and listen to Kim talk, though, and your opinion might change. Not about the brash and arrogant part. No question, Anthony Kim is so sure of himself that he could shatter Tiger Woods' major record (after Tiger shatters Jack Nicklaus' record) and still think more highly of himself than that Mount Rushmore scenario would even dictate.
But there's more there than that with Kim. This is one of the more open athletes in sports, by far the most open among this next generation of Tiger-following pro golfers who seem to be focused on mimicking a robot. Do you think Anthony Kim is the first young golfer with talent to get on Tour and fall in love with vodka shots and the club scene that goes with them? Hell no. But he's one of the only ones to frankly talk about it.
Even halfway grown up now at age 23 (even Kim probably wouldn't argue to being much more than halfway), Kim is fun. He brings a real rollicking rascal's sense to the game, even now that he takes his job 50 times more seriously than he did just last year. When is the last time someone young was fun in professional golf?
It's almost like there's a rule set down at PGA Tour Boulevard in Ponte Verde, Fla., that only old guys making comebacks can be funny. So you get Rocco Mediate sharing joy and Kenny Perry telling downhome Kentucky jokes and Woody Austin trying to be funny for a while (catch Aquaman lately, and you get more tired bitterness than anything about his unconventional legacy).
Forget Tiger Woods, who's in another Oprah stratosphere of fame and carries all the weights that go with that. Have you ever thought Sergio Garcia was real or amusing? Even when Garcia's breaking out the Jerry Maguire "You complete me" bit to deflect a reporter's questions at Royal Birkdale, he comes across more like that co-worker who incessantly smiles at your face but would stab you in the back with the copy toner cartridge if he could.
Then, there's Anthony Kim ...
"It's a temptation all right. Trust me," Kim says of the lure of night clubs and all the text messages he gets from women who want to be "his friend."
Kim goes on to say all the right things about, "But that's not what I want to do with my life." But the way he sells the temptation part with his smile shows you just what life is like when you're young, rich, and tagged as up and coming. How great it is to indulge. Kim's not going to try and pretend it wasn't freaking fantastic. He's not going to lie and say he was miserable as he lived every 20-year-old guy's dream.
That's Anthony Kim. He's Vinnie Chase, only shorter and real. How can you not love the guy?
It's easy to assume you will not like Anthony Kim, though. I admit, I didn't know what to make of the guy as he burst into prominence with two wins since May.
His hunking Dolly Parton-line belt buckles are a ridiculously comical attempt at going hip. The way he sometimes makes it seem like he came from L.A.'s mean streets is borderline laughable, considering he went off to live in La Quinta - one of Palm Springs' rich, tame and tepid golf communities at age 16 - to play PGA West golf courses that vacationers dream of. (Anthony Kim's parents had it unbelievably rough growing up. He didn't.)
Yet, with all this potential fakeness around him, Kim's real.
He gives the most honest answers to errors he's made in recent tournaments that you'll ever hear from a golfer on PGA Championship eve. He tweaks himself for that batting practice session at Fenway Park before last week's Bridgestone.
"Last week, I made the mistake of not preparing the right way and maybe taking too many swings at Fenway," Kim says. "My body just wasn't right. The most disappointing part was not being prepared like I wanted to be for every tournament this year."
This is the kind of admission that athletes never make, the thing that a Tony Romo wouldn't do in a million years after a pre-playoff-game trip to Cabo with Jessica Simpson. Kim's only getting started, too. Now he's talking about how he pressed too much at the British Open and followed that by screwing up a Canadian tournament by recklessly hitting driver on a 3-wood hole.
Remember, Kim's 23. Thirty-eight-year-old Phil Mickelson still admits to a club selection mistake about as often as A-Rod gives talks on celibacy - and even then Phil does it so grudgingly that you almost expect him to ask for novacaine.
You have to wonder if this honest Anthony Kim can last, though. Is IMG already trying to turn Kim into one of its answer-by-rote athletes? Armstrong, tapping on his Blackberry in the audience, grins and looks up when a reporter asks Kim a softball about those belt buckles, and Kim gives the answer about just stumbling across them in a Norman, Okla., mall and buying some from a struggling kiosk owner. This is already part of the Anthony Kim script.
Enjoy this PGA Championship. Enjoy this Anthony Kim as long as you can, hope that he lasts. Because it's still a hell of a fun show right now.
August 7, 2008
Chris Baldwin keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
Davis Love III, who played the final 57 holes of the Children's Miracle Network Classic without a bogey, finished at 25-under 263 in the season-ending event played at the Walt Disney World Golf Resort in Florida. It has been a long road back for Love, who severely sprained his ankle late last year. After tearing ligaments, he needed surgery, and he's spent much of this year rehabilitating the injury.
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