Anthony Kim back…but might not play at Riviera

Anthony Kim is back from the shoulder injury that caused him to withdraw from the Bob Hope Classic. He’s not on the commitment list to play at the Northern Trust Open at Riviera next month, although he has until Feb. 13 to decide if he wants to play in it.
He’ll play at the FBR Open this week. Here’s the transcript of his news conference from Arizona:

MARK STEVENS: We’d like to welcome Anthony Kim to the media room. Anthony started out the season at Mercedes with a tie for second and he had a tie for 30th last year at this event. If you’ll just start off with some general comments about your first event this year and kind of thoughts leading into the tournament this week.

ANTHONY KIM: Well, I’ve gotten off to a good start, obviously finishing second at Mercedes, and taking some time off right before the tournament. So I feel like my game is starting to come around. I’m going to have to put in some hard work, but I’m looking forward to a good 2009.

Q. How is your shoulder?

KIM: Shoulder feels great. I mean, it was a little tender, and I just didn’t want to push it early in the year. It was the last tournament, the TOUR Championship, I may have played, but I need to take care of it for the rest of the season. So I just thought it was smarter for me to take some time off and rehab.

Q. Did you get an MRI?

KIM: I did.

Q. And it came out good?

KIM: It came out good. It was nothing long-term, just strained it. It was a little bursitis, and it should be fine. Hopefully my game will show.

Q. How did you hurt the shoulder?

KIM: You know, I think it was like hole No. 12 on the third round at Mercedes. I just swung too hard, probably trying to hit a drive too far, and just felt like I tweaked it, and it hurt pretty much the rest of the tournament. Obviously when you’re close to the lead, you don’t feel it as much.

Q. Camilo was in a couple minutes ago and was talking about how after his success last year he’s now kind of had to reevaluate, kind of raise his own bar, his own goals. Do you feel the same way?

KIM: No, I don’t. I don’t really — I don’t set goals for myself besides the main goal for every player out here is to be the best player in the world. I’m just working to get there, and everything that comes along the way and gets in the way — like making the Ryder Cup was huge, and I wanted to do that, but it wasn’t something where if I didn’t do it now, it would tear me apart, because eventually I’m going to get there. I’m going to keep working and keep grinding away, and one day it’ll happen. So I just want to stay on the same path I am now and elevate my game to a different level.

Q. You’ve had some weird injuries, you had the jaw thing, you had the shoulder. Is this just freak stuff or just a minor inconvenience? Is it going to affect anything? What’s your take?

KIM: No, I don’t think it’s going to affect anything. I’ve been like that my whole life. I’ve always been the kid that is running around and trying to play as many sports as possible before the sun goes down. So there were lots of times where I did get injured, but that’s how I grew up playing golf, and hopefully those injuries will start to go away.

But I don’t see that being a problem in the future.

Q. What are your overall impressions of the FBR Open?

KIM: I love it here. This is a tournament that I circle on the calendar every year because I watched it, I watched Tiger make that hole-in-one, and I saw everybody throwing their cups at him and all the beer going around and people going wild. I’m looking forward to giving that a shot for four days, and hopefully the fans will have something to cheer about.

Q. Have you noticed a lot of TOUR players embrace it or don’t like it at all? Is it polarizing in that way?

KIM: I’ve got to believe that people love it. There’s obviously a couple guys who probably don’t like the noise, but look, if you can’t play in that atmosphere, don’t come to this tournament. It’s a one-time-a-year deal, and I enjoy it so much. This is as close as we get to being at Staples Center or inside a football dome. So I’m just excited to be here and excited to hit some good golf shots.

Q. What are you thinking as you approach 16?

KIM: Well, hopefully I’m thinking about 15 (laughter). If I stay on my game, I’ll be thinking about 15, making that putt, or whatever, making a good swing, and then I’ll be ready on 16.

Q. Have you been booed at 16?

KIM: I have been booed. What was crazy was I hit a good golf shot. The pin was front left and I hit it, and the wind came up, and it went in the bunker. It covered the bunker, but it rolled back in, and as I’m walking and the ball is rolling back, they started booing me, so I just told them to keep it coming, because it was hilarious.

Q. You last year talked about having something of an epiphany when you saw Tiger at the BMW in ’07 and realized you needed to become more disciplined. Where do you stand with your relationship with discipline right now? Are you happy with your progress? Do you still need to get more zoned in like Tiger?

KIM: Right now I know that that’s my weakness. I know I’d like to have — one thing that’s important to me is having fun and always having a smile on my face. So the problem is that I used to chase that feeling all the time, and I’m trying my hardest not to be — not to go there anymore. It doesn’t mean I can’t have fun, it just means I have to be smarter about it.

I am becoming somewhat of a role model to other kids, and I don’t want to be that guy where they say, oh, he had all that talent and he’s wasting it.

Q. When you say you don’t want to go there anymore, what does that mean? Like be known for the nightlife?

KIM: Right, I don’t want to be that guy, and my mom and dad are sitting right there, and they don’t want me to be that guy, either. As long as I can keep them happy, I know I’m doing a good job, and I’m definitely striving to be more focused like Tiger, and Camilo does a tremendous job of being focused and working hard. I know I have a long way to go, but I’m definitely willing to put in the work. I just don’t know when all this will happen, but I’m going to try my best.

Q. Some of it has got to be — what are you, 23, 24?

KIM: 23.

Q. Natural maturity, right?

KIM: Right. I feel like I’ve grown up quite a bit, but I know at 25 years old I’ll look back and say why did I do this or that was stupid or I shouldn’t have done that. But I’m learning as I go, and I have a lot of great people around me helping me and guiding me in the right way.

Q. Is that focus the only thing keeping you from — Tiger is such a different breed of cat, but reaching your potential?

KIM: It has a lot — that’s mostly it, focus. I still need to be more patient. My mom has been telling me that since I was four years old, “More patience, Tony.” I definitely have to be more patient on the golf course, and when things aren’t going my way not try to force anything.

I’m still working on all parts of my game. I think one thing — the thing that was lacking last year in my game was a bump-and-run shot in my short game, and then I look back, and there’s so many other things I have to work on, not just the bump-and-run.

I’m getting better, but the focus is the biggest part. Like I said earlier, hopefully I’ll be thinking about 15 and not 16 when I am on 15. But that has been the case, where I’ve been thinking about 16 when I teed off on 1 and how excited I am to hit that golf shot. But I’m learning and I’m going to keep getting better.

Q. Last year — I’ve been hearing more and more that he’s the only guy who can hit some shots like Tiger has; the only other guy that has the arsenal that you have is Tiger. Have you heard some of that from Tuesday practice partners or players, and if so, what has really resonated very nicely with you?

KIM: I’ve heard that, but then I’ll see somebody hit a crazy shot, and I say, how unbelievable was that shot? Everybody out here hits some incredible shots, and I know one of the strengths is me being — actually my lack of focus helps me because I will be on the range and try to hit a 30-yard hook with a pitching wedge, and then I’ll need to hit it in the tournament, and I’ve done it so many times that I’ll pull it off.

I think that has helped me, and I’m not willing to just play the conservative shot all the time. I’m going to try to push the envelope a little bit and try to win golf tournaments. Even though it feels good to hear people say that, I know that there’s still a long way for me to go because I’m not winning a lot of tournaments.

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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.
  • Big Mike

    How can you say “HE MIGHT NOT PLAY RIVIERA?

    He said 3 weeks ago he wasn’t playing it or ATT at Pebble. Wheres Dave Shelburne when we need him most?

    February 12-15 Anthony Kim scheduled to play
    Maybank Malaysian Open, Kuala Lumpur

    February 12-15 Anthony Kim NOT scheduled to play
    AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Pebble Beach, California
    Defending Champion: Steve Lowery
    Purse: $6,100,000

    February 19-22 Anthony Kim scheduled to play
    Johnnie Walker Classic, Perth, Australia
    Purse: $2,700,000

    February 19-22 Anthony Kim NOT scheduled to play
    Northern Trust Open, Pacific Palisades, California
    Defending Champion: Phil Mickelson
    Purse: $6,300,000