As you might expect from a guy who wears a diamond-studded belt buckle, Anthony Kim likes to play poker. And trust me, you wouldn't want to play him. He's got that Gus Hanson mentality -- totally unpredictable. He'll go all-in with a 2-7 off-suit. Anthony's not afraid to gamble and there's just no telling what he's going to do. That makes him tough to play.
He's tough to play on the golf course too, as fans and fellow Tour players are learning this year with his wins at the Wachovia in May and now the AT&T National at Congressional (a.k.a. Tiger's Tournament) on Fourth of July weekend with a final-round 65.
I've known Anthony since he was 10 years old. He grew up hitting balls at the Studio City (Calif.) Golf Club. Actually, we all did since it was the only night-lit driving range in the San Fernando Valley. The community of players on our side of the Valley is not that large, and the guys who play in big tournaments all know each other.
When we met I was in my 20s and getting my teaching career going. I am not Anthony's coach. That's Adam Scribner, and Adam does a great job. What I do is give him a hard time and keep him in check when he gets a big head, which is pretty much all the time.
I don't mean that in a bad way. I like kids with fire and Anthony has plenty of that. He's just never intimidated. At heart he's a really good kid. But, man, can he talk trash.
One time he was playing a practice round at the 2006 U.S. Amateur at Hazeltine in Minnesota. It was Anthony and two other young players from the East Coast. And Anthony was flat-out killing the ball. One hole he probably hit 40 yards past them. And he stopped where their balls were and said, in a drawl he didn't pick up in California, "Y'all hit 3-wood on this hole?" So I said, "Anthony, you know what's worse is when someone hits an 8-iron inside your wedge."
Sure enough, one of the kids put an 8-iron inside of Anthony's
wedge. So when I got to the green, I said, "Gee, Anthony, I think
you're away!" Of course, he looked over his 15-foot putt and hit it
right in the hole.
That attitude might have rubbed people the wrong way when Anthony
first came out on Tour. Everybody likes to talk about how important
winning is, but only a few really live that way. Anthony is not out
there to make a check. He wants to win and he'll fight tooth and nail
for it all the time. For guys who have lost that desire -- or maybe
never had it in the first place -- seeing a player who burns with it
can make them uncomfortable.
Anthony doesn't make any apologies about his attitude and I don't
want to him to ever change. I see a real Seve Ballesteros-type attitude
with him, that "I'm here to win" and "no points for second place"
Speaking of Seve, Anthony should be a great addition to the Ryder
Cup team this year because there's no fear in this kid at all. He and
Sergio Garcia got into it during a practice round at Riviera this year, and I know he'd love to take on Sergio at Valhalla. Anthony's not going to take s--- from anybody.
I hear people says that Anthony is becoming more mature, but I
honestly don't know what they mean. Maybe Anthony is a little more
patient on the course, but he hasn't changed who he is. He's a baller
and he can play with anybody. There's greatness in this kid and it's
great to see him flourish. We really need him in the game, because when
Tiger Woods isn't in the field, golf can be boring. But it's never
boring with Anthony.
The belt buckle really sums Anthony up: the swagger in his game. One time
Tiger was giving him grief about the belt, and Anthony said, "Nike
doesn't make this... yet." Tiger loves that kind of stuff, because
that's the way he is too.
(Hunter Martin/Getty Images)