Anthony Kim’s Return Includes A Top, A Shank And One Birdie

KING ABDULLAH ECONOMIC CITY, Saudi Arabia (AP) — Anthony Kim hit his first competitive shot in 4,320 days and then hit more shots than he wanted Friday at LIV Golf Jeddah. He opened with a 6-over 76 and was in last place, trailing Masters champion Jon Rahm and Adrian Meronk by 14 shots.

Kim walked away from the PGA Tour after the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship on May 3, 2012, beset by injuries and a lost game. He signed on this week to be a wild card for the remainder of the LIV season, meaning he doesn’t belong to any team.

“I would be lying to say that I didn’t have certain expectations. Even if I played bad, I thought I would shoot around par,” Kim said. “It was unfortunate that I made so many unforced errors from the middle of the fairway. That’s generally my strength is my iron game. To make so many unforced errors is really disappointing.

“I’ve got a lot to build on, and I’m looking forward to the next two days.”

Rahm, also a new addition to the Saudi-funded league this year, birdied his last three holes at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club. That gave him a 62 and a share of the first-round lead with yet another LIV newcomer, Meronk.

They were one shot ahead of a group that included Joaquin Niemann of Chile, who bogeyed his last hole and dropped back to a 63. Nieman already has won once this year in LIV Golf, along with an Australian Open title that was key toward him receiving a Masters invitation.

But the focus, if not curiosity, was on Kim.

A three-time winner on the PGA Tour, the 38-year-old Californian now has a young daughter and is trying to compete again after more than a decade of hardly any golf activity.

Kim started on the par-5 18th in the shotgun start and put his opening tee shot in the fairway.

“Fairway looked very narrow, so to be able to hit the fairway was nice,” Kim said. “Got off to a good start, and then made an unforced error with my second shot. Just too many unforced errors. But really played better than the score, and I know I can clean that up pretty quickly.”

LIV goes to Hong Kong next week. Kim will not play in the United States until April 5 at Trump Doral outside Miami. He can accrue individual points, which would give him a chance to be a permanent player for LIV in 2025.

Kim was among only eight players who were over par in the first round at Royal Greens.

Brooks Koepka, meanwhile, managed only two birdies in a round of 69 as he goes for a third straight LIV title in Saudi Arabia.

Update: Sunday, March 3, 2024:

Joaquin Niemann won his second LIV Golf title in three starts, closing with a 4-under 66 on Sunday at LIV Golf Jeddah for a four-shot victory over Louis Oosthuizen and Charl Schwartzel.

Niemann now has three wins in the last three months, starting with the Australian Open victory in December that allowed him to rejoin the European tour and eventually put him on the path toward getting invited to the Masters.

Niemann started his third season on the Saudi-funded league by opening with a 59 at Mayakoba and winning in a playoff over Sergio Garcia. Now he soars to the top of the points list with another win ahead of next week’s LIV event in Hong Kong.

Kim, who had gone 12 years without competitive golf until signing a deal with LIV Golf this week, had a 74 and finished his week in last place, 33 shots out of the lead. He made two birdies on Sunday, giving him four birdies for the week.

Kim’s deal allows him to play the rest of LIV’s events this year without being attached to a team.