For Anthony Kim, a return to form?
ORLANDO -- You have to scroll well down the list of players on the Official World Golf Ranking to find him, and you keep looking for Anthony Kim's name, so it is easy to think you missed it.
Surely he is not outside of the top 50 in the world? The top 75? The top 100?
Yep, there he is, weighing in at No. 120, a former young gun who starred on a U.S. Ryder Cup team, contended in major championships, won three PGA Tour events. Things have not been going so well of late for Kim, who entered the year with high hopes of qualifying for the Masters.
"I'm actually farther away than when I started the season,'' he said.
Kim wasn't complaining Thursday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He was relieved to finally find a form of success, even if two late bogeys knocked him from atop the leaderboard. A hole-in-one helped, and for a day, Kim could be positive about his performance on the course.
"I haven't felt that comfortable on the first tee for a long time,'' said Kim, whose 69 left him three strokes behind leader Charlie Wi. "Been working really hard and actually just keeping out of my own way, and even though that should be the easiest thing for a professional golfer, it's the hardest. I've been running my head into a brick wall. So I moved away from the brick wall and now I can swing and make some birdies out here.''
Kim, who seemingly has been around for years, is just 26. He's already been on a Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup team. He made 11 birdies in one round at the Masters. He's won at Quail Hollow, AT&T National and the Houston Open.
But in six previous starts this year, he made just one cut, at the Honda Classic. He had shot in the 60s just three times. A tie for fifth at the British Open last summer -- where it was last thought he was emerging from the doldrums -- was but a distant memory. Same with some success in the fall in Asia.
"That was more a flash in the pan,'' Kim said. "I'm trying not to do that because that's what I'm known for, I guess.''
Kim's problems date back two years, even as he was playing some of his best golf. He won the Houston Open, got into contention at the Masters, then played in the same group with Rory McIlroy when he won his first tournament at Quail Hollow in 2010. Kim finished sixth, but his left thumb was killing him.
He elected to have surgery and missed most of the summer, coming back at the Bridgestone Invitational with hopes of making the Ryder Cup team. But he missed four of six cuts. Last year wasn't much better, as Kim had two top-10s but missed 11 cuts.
This year, the struggles have continued.
"It's not from the injury," he said. "I have no pain. I haven't had pain in a long time. More people have been saying that I have pain without knowing. But I had so many bad habits.
"So I had to go back to hitting my fade, and my coach [Adam Schreiber] and I have been working really hard; we actually didn't work at all for six months, because I wanted to learn my body and learn how to hit the fade and I couldn't do it.
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"So a month ago, he said he's going to start traveling with me until I get it. We've been working at home, hitting balls in my garage, chipping in my backyard, putting in my backyard, just to make sure that we have a good opportunity to win some golf tournaments.
"And who knows -- I can still make it to Augusta if I play well."
Kim had five birdies, an ace at No. 17 (a 5-iron from 203 yards) and four bogeys. He led the tournament at 5-under par until making bogeys on two of his last three holes.
But he didn't let that discourage him. Kim is in the mix, and he's right -- he can still make it to the Masters. A win here or next week in Houston will do it.
Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.
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