Can't fault Anthony Kim for having fun

October, 22, 2010

It was the Tuesday before the AT&T National two years ago, and as the long day faded into twilight, only a single competitor remained on the driving range at Congressional Country Club.

That lone player was Anthony Kim, which was more than a tad surprising. Perhaps this signified a change in attitude for Kim -- never known as the PGA Tour's most diligent worker -- a suggestion that the then 23-year-old was taking life as a professional golfer more seriously than ever before.

It wasn't until this story was relayed to a few of Kim's peers that it was revealed his reason for a late-day practice session was because he had hit the town pretty hard the night before.

Such news remains relevant now, as Kim recently made headlines during a run of partying in Las Vegas prior to the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. According to various reports, Kim acted in a belligerent manner at a blackjack table before being asked to tone it down, and later sprayed a bottle of expensive champagne across the dance floor of a nightclub while racking up a hefty tab.

The weightiness of these actions grew more palpable when Kim subsequently withdrew from the tournament, citing soreness in his left thumb, which required surgery in May and forced him to miss three months of the season.

Since then, it has been proposed that if Kim can't keep himself on the straight and narrow, he may wind up as golf's next John Daly -- which is to say, a hard-partying, fun-loving guy off the course but largely a wasted talent on it.

You know what? That's a bunch of baloney.

Although Kim's actions may have crossed the line into arrogant and crude, they were neither illegal nor overtly incendiary. Most importantly, they weren't conceived on company time. These events didn't take place during a tournament or even directly before, but instead in the days leading up to one.

Since when is it wrong for a single, rich, young professional to enjoy himself during off-peak hours? Musicians do it all the time. Actors, too. And yet, there's rarely any discussion that the next album or feature film will suffer due to these extracurricular activities.

Just because Kim lives in the whitebread world of golf doesn't mean he should be held to a different standard. Let's face it: Of the many things we learned about Tiger Woods over the past year, perhaps the most surprising wasn't that he was living a double-life, but that his personal affairs seemed to have little effect on his on-course performance.

No one is suggesting that Kim owns a closet full of skeletons akin to those of Woods, but it's obvious that the guy enjoys a good party. It would be foolish, though, to draw a parallel between his social life and any impending downfall in his career.

What Kim does in his off time allows him to blow off some steam from the rigors of his career. We all need it; professional golfers are no different. Steve Stricker enjoys deer hunting. Jim Furyk is a football fan. Lee Westwood owns thoroughbred horses.

Upon recent memory, there's only one player -- Loren Roberts -- who has listed golf among the "special interests" in his PGA Tour bio. Just as a plumber doesn't work on leaky faucets in his spare time and an accountant doesn't constantly crunch numbers, golfers need other hobbies, too.

So Anthony Kim's just happens to be partying. Hey, there are worse things for a guy to partake in. This shouldn't portend a cloudy future for him on the course any more than another player's hobbies would spell doom.

There aren't many swings in the game more refined than Kim's, and surely there is no more fiery competitor. These are the attributes we should be examining when discussing Kim's potential to ascend as one of the world's elite golfers. If that means he sometimes embarks on an early-week practice session late in the day, so be it. It's not until a player's other favorite activity -- whether that's partying, hunting, football or horses -- begins to take away from his career that we should begin to worry about his future.

Need proof? Well, you need only look back at the 2008 AT&T, when five days after being the final player left at the range, Kim found himself holding a big trophy and an oversized check in the winner's circle. No doubt there was a party to be had after that one.

Jason Sobel | email

ESPN Senior Writer



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