Why LIV Golf’s $10m Anthony Kim gamble may not be worth the risk

Anthony Kim final performed aggressive golf in 2012 (Getty Photographs)

In the end, golf’s worst-kept secret is official. Anthony Kim, as soon as the pre-eminent darling of the PGA Tour within the early 2010s, will tee it up this week in competitors for the primary time in 12 years.

The American, who has not often been seen or heard from since his unofficial retirement in 2012, has been coaxed from his slumber by the Saudi-backed LIV Golf and can make his return on the league’s third occasion of the yr in King Abdullah Financial Metropolis on Friday.

The choice represents a stark reversal within the now 38-year-old’s life, having appeared content material to gather a reported $10m insurance coverage payout after a slew of accidents hampered his meteoric rise.

Ending second on his PGA Tour debut in 2006, Kim, or “AK” as grew to become recognized, earned a cult following for his brash persona and fearless method. Simply two full seasons later, the American had notched up two victories and have become the poster boy for the 2008 US Ryder Cup crew when he thrashed European stalwart Sergio Garcia 5&4 at Valhalla. An extra six months on, Kim grew to become the primary – and solely – man to make greater than 10 birdies in a spherical at The Masters.

However accidents quickly took their toll. Thumb, wrist, Achilles and rotator cuff points noticed him plummet down the rankings earlier than he vanished following the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship.

The phrases of Kim’s insurance coverage payout forbade him from making any comeback to skilled golf, it was claimed, however when he started plotting a return to the game earlier this yr, LIV’s conflict chest quickly got here calling. What, in any case, is one other $10m, to the Saudi Public Funding Fund (PIF) that has already rolled out a £450m pink carpet to signal reigning Masters champion Jon Rahm simply two months prior?

Now, followers, overcome with nostalgia, are left salivating on the prospect of Kim’s return. What that appears like, although, is one other prospect solely.

The state of Kim’s recreation and physique are just about unknown and the duty of re-conditioning each again to the rigours {of professional} golf after 12 years on the shelf shouldn’t be underestimated. Of the highest ten golfers on the earth when Kim retired in March 2012, solely two (Rory McIlroy and Phil Mickelson) stay on the earth’s high 200. Golf is more and more an adolescent’s sport and longevity is difficult to attain.

To that finish, LIV could also be a extra nice reintroduction. The league’s 54-hole occasions and fewer hectic schedule might permit Kim to re-acclimatise however Greg Norman and Co. actually gained’t need to see their new, shiny toy languishing on the backside of the leaderboard, an end result that appears solely believable and, maybe worse, anticipated.

Then there are the larger questions for LIV to reply. The low season signings of Rahm, Tyrrell Hatton and Adrian Meronk notably improved the league’s high quality. Their first occasion in Mayakoba gleaned an elevated viewership, helped partially by a Sunday rainout on the PGA Tour but in addition by a extra aggressive and compelling golf product.

Anthony Kim was a star of the 2008 Ryder Cup in Valhalla (Getty Images)

Anthony Kim was a star of the 2008 Ryder Cup in Valhalla (Getty Photographs)

By granting Kim a wildcard spot, due to this fact, the league has fallen again on celeb and hyperbole – slightly than sporting competitors – to drive its product ahead. The PGA Tour would have, undoubtedly, prolonged numerous sponsor invitations to Kim if he’d needed to return however the American would nonetheless have been required to play his method into the easiest occasions.

In the identical week that Bryson DeChambeau and Talor Gooch, two outstanding LIV gamers, have once more bemoaned the dearth of rating factors given out to their occasions, the free cross afforded to Kim to waltz into LIV’s profitable 54-man occasions after 12 years out won’t support their claims of a severe and aggressive sporting surroundings.

After all, a lot of that gained’t matter to LIV officers. Sportswashing and an eventual cope with the PGA Tour and American sports activities homeowners seemingly stays the PIF’s finish purpose. Kim’s debut within the Center East, even when proven on tape delay in America on the CW Community, will put their product within the highlight and little question carry followers to their future US occasions.

However it’s additionally a transfer that might backfire. The attract surrounding Kim’s return lies in what he was and what may have been. If the American fails to reignite that spark, the excitement may rapidly dissipate when followers realise what he has develop into. LIV has already traded a few of its sporting integrity with its exorbitant signing-on charges and closed-shop mannequin. If their newest gamble, for a reported $10m, now fails to land, it’s laborious to know what they’ve left.

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