Anthony Kim talks…and he’ll be here all week

Anthony Kim had what almost served as a comedy hour in his news conference at the Chevron World Challenge yesterday. Kim, who grew up in Studio City, poked fun at himself over a couple of recent injuries and much, much more.

December 18, 2008

An interview with:

ANTHONY KIM

THE MODERATOR: We’d like to welcome Anthony Kim to the media center here at the Chevron World Challenge. Anthony, thanks for taking a few minutes to chat with us. Obviously 2008 was a banner year for you, breakout. Not only your first win, but your second win. Just an incredible year. Maybe a little bit of a recap and kind of the state of your game as you’re heading into a little bit of downtime.
ANTHONY KIM: I got off to a slow start last year. Really felt like I needed to turn something around. My game, for some reason, turned around. Just kept going with it. Obviously got to win a couple times, which is nice. My confidence is back up and I’m ready to go for ’09.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll just jump in and throw it out for a few questions.

Q. Talk about coming back here to L.A. Is it a special place for you to play? And what the heck is this weather all about? You’re dressed for Alaska.
ANTHONY KIM: I think I brought the Dallas weather with me.
It’s always special to come home, especially when I get to go to Woodley, see some of the guys that I’ve known forever. For some of those guys to come out here, I’m sure some people will be coming out this week, looking forward to seeing some familiar faces.
Obviously growing up in this area, not too far from here, about an hour away, makes me feel like I’m back home. I’m excited to be playing in Tiger’s event and supporting this tournament.

Q. How hard is it to play with how cold it is right now?
ANTHONY KIM: I mean, it’s always hard when it’s cold, but at the same time it’s hard for everybody. You just have to bear with it, try to play as well as you can.

Q. People have mentioned you in specific and at times Camilo as being the emerging stars ready to challenge Tiger. Your thoughts on that?
ANTHONY KIM: Just the flavor of the month, it feels like. You know, whoever plays good that week is the next guy to challenge Tiger. When I came out here in ’07, I felt like I was ready to take on the world, and I wasn’t.
But I’m learning. I’m learning how to schedule. I’m learning how to practice. I’m learning how to do different things. It’s getting me ready to at least compete or try to compete with him. And I think if I keep progressing, there’s not really any reason for me not to get to that point where I can compete with him.
Obviously, I’ve looked up to him for so long. Being able to support this golf tournament, especially when he’s injured, try to make a name for myself out here, it’s pretty special.

Q. (No microphone.)
ANTHONY KIM: I think I have to get healthy first. If I keep progressing, I’m not going to set any limits on myself. This is just a game. I’m out here having fun. If I can keep having fun, I know the scores will keep coming down and I’ll be ready to play against anybody.

Q. I don’t know if you had a transformation, but you changed some things between your rookie and your second year. Did you seek Tiger out for any counsel in any of that? Did you try to learn from his example or follow some of the things he had done?
ANTHONY KIM: Well, I actually didn’t ask Tiger for too much advice. I wasn’t in the tournaments that he was in. You have to play good to be in those, so… I wasn’t in any of those (laughter).
I actually looked to some other guys. I was fortunate enough to play with Mark O’Meara, some of the other veterans that really have taken me under their wing and tried to help me along.
It’s been a huge change. It’s been a life change, not just on the golf course, but off. Having those guys help me out has been tremendous. Hopefully I can keep listening and keep improving.

Q. Can you talk about your off season this year. I would assume it was markedly different from last year where you took a couple months off. Can you talk about your off season this year and your schedule for this year, how you’re working that.
ANTHONY KIM: Well, I’d like to tell you that I just grinded and worked out, did some schoolwork that I had been missing, but I didn’t do any of that (laughter). I laid around at home. Really, I hurt my ankle about six weeks ago or seven weeks ago, then hurt my jaw, in New Zealand. I was pretty accident prone for a couple weeks there. I’ve just been trying to get healthy. I just started working with Craig Davies, and he’s really helped me improve my body. We’ve been working out quite a bit the last week and a half, two weeks. Just trying to get my body ready for the ’09 season, because I was pretty tired at the end of the year and didn’t have everything that I wanted.
So if I can keep improving in those parts, even though it’s not directly related to golf, it will make me a better player, and that’s what I’m looking for.

Q. As far as scheduling, can you talk about your decision to join the European Tour and go for the Race to Dubai? How will that impact what you play here in the States?
ANTHONY KIM: I don’t think it will impact it too much. I’m playing in I think eight tournaments, are co sanctioned, the PGA TOUR, like the British Open and the World Golf Championships, and I’m only supposed to play 12. It’s not going to affect my schedule very much.
But I am looking forward to that opportunity. I want to be a worldwide player. Although the PGA TOUR is the best tour right now, I’d like to become a worldwide player. My parents being Korean, myself being Korean American, it’s important for me to go back to Asia and play, go see everybody, try to grow the game wherever it is.

Q. What were the injuries again? How did you do the ankle? Falling from the chandelier at the Ryder Cup?
ANTHONY KIM: I don’t even go near chandeliers, so I don’t know what you’re talking about (laughter).
No, I was actually at my friend’s house having dinner. I walked down, thought there were four steps, and there were three. My foot slipped off, turned my ankle pretty bad.

Q. And the jaw?
ANTHONY KIM: The jaw? I was acting up and my mom hit me, right hook (laughter).
No, I actually was riding a horse and didn’t want to lose to somebody. The horse, when he bucked, I came down, I came right on his neck or whatever you want to call it. I thought I broke my jaw. I still don’t know what’s happened to it. I figure if I don’t go to the doctor, I really don’t know, so it will be fine.

Q. So you hit the horse with your jaw?
ANTHONY KIM: Right.

Q. Where were you horseback riding and why?
ANTHONY KIM: In New Zealand. Because I want to be in the Kentucky Derby next year.

Q. Is that the Breeders’ Cup maybe where you were at?
ANTHONY KIM: No, it wasn’t there. I was actually playing in the Kiwi Challenge. Had a couple of days off. So I felt like it was really smart for me to go horseback riding.

Q. Who were you racing?
ANTHONY KIM: I was racing everybody, the world. I just go for my own records sometimes. It was up a mountain, the safest place you could go.

Q. Are you that good of a jockey?
ANTHONY KIM: No. Obviously I’m not very good at all.

Q. The last time you’ll do that in a while?
ANTHONY KIM: Not the last time. I’ve made worse decisions. Actually I had a very good time.

Q. I want to ask you about next year and your thoughts about the potential of getting your first major and the golf courses where the majors are going to be at, your expectations and how you think they suit your game.
ANTHONY KIM: I haven’t even played the Masters yet, so I’m not putting too much pressure on myself trying to win a major. Obviously, every tournament I go to, that is my goal. But what’s different from ’07 to ’08, I just worried about the process instead of the outcome. I feel like my game is ready to win a major. If it happens this year, it happens this year. I’m looking forward to that opportunity. I mean, I’m playing good golf. I’m improving. I know what I have to get better at. Even though I don’t watch golf, I know some of the things that Tiger does so well that I’m lacking in. I’m going to try to tighten those things up along the year and hopefully I’ll be ready.

Q. As far as the courses, though, have you looked at that, to see where the British Open and U.S. Open are going to be?
ANTHONY KIM: The only course I know I’m playing is Augusta. I don’t even know where the other majors are at. It’s just golf. You got to get the ball in the hole. I feel like the majors are set up tough. So if I can keep my head in it, stay patient, I should have a good opportunity.

Q. The U.S. Open this next year is going to be in New York at Bethpage. Is that one of the tournaments you’re really looking forward to?
ANTHONY KIM: I’m looking forward to all the majors. I have a couple friends in New York, but not too many. I haven’t been up in that area. I know there’s a big Korean population there. Hopefully I’ll have some support and hopefully I’ll be playing good golf going into that week.

Q. Didn’t you hurt your arm or shoulder at Fenway?
ANTHONY KIM: Sure did. I screwed up my swing for the rest of the year there. I was chipping and putting really well at the end of the year. I just didn’t feel like I had the same swing when I got back from Fenway. The worst part of it was that I didn’t even hit any home runs. It was embarrassing when I was there. I got to the golf course, and my ball striking wasn’t there. So it was a lose lose. Even though it was a wonderful experience, I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.

Q. How many swings do you think you had there?
ANTHONY KIM: I was in there for a lot longer than everybody else was.

Q. Did you hit the monster?
ANTHONY KIM: I rolled it into the monster. It was pretty embarrassing.

Q. Do you think maybe the perception of you has changed since the Ryder Cup, maybe the perception of you being a young, brash, cocky kid? At the Ryder Cup, it was this emotional, fiery, competitive guy. Do you think you’ve maybe outgrown that perception?
ANTHONY KIM: Maybe. I mean, it’s hard for me to think about what everybody else is saying. I wouldn’t know what to think of myself. I know that I am a competitor. When I am inside the ropes, I want to win. It doesn’t matter who I play against, how I’m feeling, what the weather is, I just want to win. That’s the main goal.
If people want to take it as brash or cocky or whatever they want to say, that’s fine with me. I mean, I’m trying to improve on the golf course, but I’m trying to improve my image as well. I mean, it’s important to me what my friends and my parents think. When my mom said, You could tone it down a little bit, I’m probably going to tone it down. Really that’s all I’m thinking about, trying to play the best golf I can.

Q. Can you tell me, where have you played in Europe? Can tell us your thoughts about European golf versus playing over here?
ANTHONY KIM: There’s a long list of courses I played in Europe: Royal Birkdale is it (laughter).

Q. The one and only?
ANTHONY KIM: Right.

Q. We don’t have to go too far then?
ANTHONY KIM: No, that was it. It was so much fun. I had a blast out there. It’s totally different than playing golf in the States, no matter where you go in the States. I feel like it was a true test of patience and your short game. Had I putted well, it would have been a different story. But the greens are a hundred yards long out there, and I’d never gotten to experience that.
It was a learning experience and I’m definitely looking forward to getting back because I enjoy it over there. I enjoy the imagination you need to play those golf courses.

Q. What does it mean to you to have Corey Pavin, who is going to captain the 2010 Cup, what does it mean to you when he says I want these competitive guys, these emotional guys, I love these guys who care, that just want to win? What does it mean when he says that and puts your name at the forefront?
ANTHONY KIM: I didn’t know that.

Q. Just saying he wants these guys who will do anything to win, and he mentions you.
ANTHONY KIM: Well, that’s very nice. Obviously coming from a guy I think we’re cut from the same cloth. He’s a smaller guy like myself and really has to do other things well to win golf tournaments or compete with guys that maybe are more physically gifted or whatnot.
I didn’t watch that much golf growing up, but I still remember the 4 wood he hit at Shinnecock on the last hole to win and what a gutsy performance he put on. And the Ryder Cup, when he chipped in and went crazy. That’s the kind of player I want to be. I’ve looked up to a lot of golfers growing up as far as different parts of their game. Corey Pavin, he was tough. And Tiger, he pretty much does everything well. Guys like Ernie stay patient at the U.S. Open when he’s trying to win and he’s 24 years old. There’s different parts of everybody I love. But Corey was a very tough competitor, and hopefully I’ll be on that next Ryder Cup team.
THE MODERATOR: Anthony, as always, we appreciate your time. Thank you.
ANTHONY KIM: Thank you.

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About Jill Painter

Jill Painter is a sports columnist for the Los Angeles News Group, covering everything from the Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, USC, UCLA, Kings, golf and all human interest stories in sports.