Updated: February 2, 2011, 2:46 PM ET

Can Kim continue to rise in 2011?

Harig By Bob Harig

It is easy to forget that Anthony Kim is just 25, a kid quickly thrust into a grown-up world with fame and fortune.

Anthony Kim
Hunter Martin/Getty ImagesAt just 25 years old, Anthony Kim won his third PGA Tour title at the Shell Houston Open just prior to the Masters last year.

That is certainly not meant to condone any of the various incidents that may or may not have been overblown in his somewhat rocky golf career. It is simply a reminder that he is a young guy with money in his pocket who likes to enjoy life.

Sometimes that doesn't fit with golf.

Perhaps that is why the results over the weekend at Torrey Pines were encouraging.

For the first time since finishing sixth at last year's Quail Hollow Championship, Kim posted a top-10 when he tied for sixth at the Farmers Insurance Open.

The result at Quail Hollow was followed by thumb surgery, three months off, and then a futile attempt to regain the form that saw him playing quite well early last year.

It made for a frustrating season that was not helped when Kim was spotted in a Las Vegas casino during the week of the Justin Timberlake tournament, only to withdraw before the pro-am.

Kim has said the incident was overblown, and that he withdrew due to his lingering thumb issues.

Whatever the case, there is no doubt the thumb injury took its toll on what had been a promising season.

"It's been very difficult," Kim said at Torrey Pines. "Not to be able to perform at my best, even when I am trying to work has been a hard pill to swallow. But I'm finally healthy. I've got no excuses. I'm just ready to practice, grind out my game and try to contend for some tournaments."

Although he managed just a 72 on Sunday at Torrey Pines, the tournament results were encouraging.

Kim, who gave the U.S. Ryder Cup team a spark in 2008 and has been considered one of America's top young golfers since posting four top-10s in 2007, was seemingly on his way to an excellent 2010 season when he had four top-10s in five starts, highlighted by a victory at the Houston Open and followed by a final-round 65 to finish third at the Masters.

A month later, however, the thumb problems were painful enough to force surgery after Quail Hollow. Kim hoped to get back in time to solidify his spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, but instead struggled, missing four cuts in a row while never fully recovering.

The thumb problems also led to bad habits in his golf swing, all of which contributed to a difficult end to last year.

Now, as Kim tees off in his fourth tournament of the year this week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, he says the injury woes are behind him.

He's also made some changes in his personal life, if for no other reason than to stop any unnecessary conjecture.

"So many things get blown out of proportion and regardless of what happens I've got to do a better job of being more private about my life," he said. "I'm a pretty free spirit, and I think that gets me in trouble just because I don't mind if somebody sees me out with my friends.

"But it's like playing a game of telephone. One story leads to another and another, and all of a sudden, you know, I'm in a different country. So I just try to limit the places I go now and just try to be more discreet about it."

Once ranked as high as sixth in the world rankings, Kim had fallen to 31st at the start of this year. He is now 29th, and it seems, on his way back up.

Tournament Troubles

The LPGA Tour keeps getting attention for the wrong reasons. First is the issue of playing a tournament in which none of the players will be paid, all of the proceeds going to charity. The second is a tournament in Mexico that was canceled for good reason, due to safety concerns.

While commissioner Michael Whan made the tough but proper call in postponing this April's Tres Marias tournament in Mexico due to violence in the area and the fear that players and their families would not be safe, his decision to stage a tournament next month with a "mock" purse continues to endure harsh scrutiny.

Several LPGA players, including Suzann Pettersen, Cristie Kerr, Juli Inkster and Morgan Pressel, have expressed various opinions questioning the wisdom of such an invent.

Whan's intentions are certainly admirable with the inaugural LPGA Founders Cup next month, in which the idea was to have all of the tournament purse go to charity, with the players being given hotel rooms and transportation stipends.

Unfortunately, the LPGA is hurting for tournaments, as the Mexico example illustrates. And only a few dozen players actually make a nice living. Most struggle to meet expenses, and to ask them to play for free seems tough in this climate.

And then came word last week that not all of the $1.3 million purse is actually going to charity, but just $500,000.

So the LPGA will play its first domestic tournament of the year and none of the players will get paid. Then, after the first major, the Kraft Nabisco, the tour will take a three-week break due to the Mexico tournament cancellation.

Just wondering ...

... if Tiger Woods is going to add any tournaments to his schedule before the Masters. Indications appear to be no. When Woods was asked Sunday -- twice -- about his schedule following next week's Dubai Desert Classic in the Middle East, he made reference to playing "in the future" -- his way of dodging the question.

It was futile, anyway, because Woods very rarely is on record with any future commitments. Dubai has been scheduled for months, and so we are left to guess that he will return to play the WGC-Accenture Match Play, the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, and the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Those have been staples on his schedule for years, but that means just four more tournaments -- and five total -- before the Masters.

If there is one thing that is clear as Woods begins the 2011 season, it is that he can use more tournament golf. He all but admitted so at Torrey Pines, where he had a disappointing tie for 44th.

"It's always easy to do it at home on the range," he said. "Then you have to do it on the golf course at home, and then once you're able do it there, now you have to do it out here. Then once you do it out here, you have to do it in contention. Then once you do it in contention, you have to do it in major championships. And then you have to do it on the back nine of a major and be successful. … So it is a process, a building process."

It would seem that process would include perhaps adding another tournament to get more comfortable, although that doesn't appear to be something that will happen.

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at BobHarig@gmail.com.


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