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Catch a rising star

THE BRITISH OPEN

Twenty-three items about Anthony Kim, who practically microwaved his way from high school to the PGA Tour and has two quality wins this year

July 16, 2008|Chuck Culpepper | Special to The Times

SOUTHPORT, England -- Twenty-three things about 23-year-old Anthony Kim, the surging golfer and amusing gabber playing his first British Open with two PGA Tour wins already:

23 In a biographical turn seldom seen on the planet, Kim's parents, Korean immigrants, moved their only child from Studio City to La Quinta at age 16, trusting him to reside alone and attend La Quinta High amid ample golf courses and scant urban distractions, while they ran their herbs store on 6th Street in Los Angeles. His mother, Miryoung, cooked weeks of meals and stored them in the freezer. "I loved the microwave, and I still love the microwave," Kim said.

22 When Tiger Woods won the 1997 Masters at 21, Kim watched intently at 11 and, "I remember in my mind, putting my face on his body."

21 The last guy to win a British Open here at Royal Birkdale, Mark O'Meara, 51, played golf with Kim last December and said Monday, "I called a bunch of people, Tiger included, and I said, 'You know what? This kid here is the best young player I've ever seen come along since Tiger. He has the most skill, the most talent. He seems like he's got an attitude but he's not afraid.' "

20 With thumping wins at quality courses in May (Quail Hollow, Charlotte) and in July (Congressional, Washington), Kim has alighted on the west coast of England for his fourth major tournament but his first British Open, his first links golf and his first trying practice rounds. Yet O'Meara, for one, says he thinks he'll actually contend.

19 "I had chills going up and down my spine," Kim said of walking up No. 18 at Quail Hollow.

18 In Washington, Kim won despite rising at 6 after watching UFC bouts around midnight. Asked if he would ever try UFC, Kim, 5 feet 10 and 160 pounds, said, "I mean, I would go in there with a bat."

17 As a carousing rookie and the youngest guy on tour in 2007, Kim once teased 2003 U.S. Open champion Jim Furyk for wearing a pink shirt. "I said, 'Rookie, wait a second. Rookie, it's still your first year, just pipe down over there,' " said Furyk, who did rather enjoy the chutzpah.

16 In addition to telling Sports Illustrated in May he wants to "help kids," reach No. 1 and "be the baddest person on the planet," he confessed that in his misguided rookie year of 2007 before he righted his thinking last fall and winter, he sometimes played with a hangover or with 45 minutes' sleep.

15 Don't rip Kim for coasting in 2007; he'll do it for you. "I think if I had won" while not caring all that much, he said in May, "my practicing would have gone down to even less, and there wasn't much to go down. I might have been playing on the Hooters Tour."

14 His childhood video obsession? "Tiger's Triple!" It's the heartening tale of how a young genius won three straight U.S. Amateurs and began to demoralize a generation of golfers.

13 Kim's statistics suggest uncommon well-roundedness. "I just don't see a lot of weakness," Furyk said. " . . . I haven't seen him do anything poorly, and you don't see a lot of young guys like that get in contention on a tough course like Wachovia [Charlotte] and then just beat the snot out of everyone."

12 On his mother, Miryoung: "I don't want to say she's the most level-headed person I know, but she's pretty close, and her calmness and her demeanor definitely are coming through in my golf game."

11 They won't enshrine Kim in the Groan-Inducing Slow Play Hall of Fame any time soon. "I grew up playing fast and I think when my A.D.D. kicks in, I play a lot worse," he said.

10 In his two victories, Kim birdied No. 1 all eight times.

9 A breakfast burrito as lore. Kim said he'd lollygagged to the course one mid-morning last September in Chicago at the BMW and grabbed the burrito when he ran into Woods and suggested a practice round. He learned, pivotally, that Woods already had finished his practice round.

8 Barreling out of La Quinta High in 2003, Kim said he visited Oklahoma University only because recruiting trips include football games, then chose Oklahoma because it rained just before the game, people shed their shirts, and, "There were people going wild and I just loved the atmosphere."

7 After three years at Oklahoma, he turned professional in 2006, finished second in his first PGA Tour event (Valero Open in San Antonio) and told reporters, "I've never been that great at school, to be perfectly honest."

6 "I love the little butterflies that you get in your stomach," he said in Washington, "and that's why I play the game."

5 It seems a runaway ball around Kim and his friends and, he said at Congressional, "A lot of them like to talk and say they are going to beat me . . . and I just love hammering them."

4 On his father, Paul, from whom he once was estranged during his college years before a happy reunion in 2006 when he got his tour card: "For the most part, when I was a little bit younger, it wasn't OK to lose, whether it was thumb-wrestling or whether it was golf."

3 A gaudy accessory can help, and golf freaks already know Kim for his "AK" belt buckle, the first of which he bought for $40, but the latest of which, a sparking monster, came free from a clothing company even though he has earned $3,256,622 this year.

2 Mad for basketball, Kim claims that until about ninth grade he believed he'd play ultimately in the NBA, the NFL and on the PGA Tour, before size and speed left him with golf, where he merely has bolted from No. 74 in the world while living it up to No. 13 in the world while bearing down.

1 He turned 23 on June 19, reiterating that life is not fair.

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