LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Anthony Kim failed to qualify for the Tour Championship last year, but he was in Atlanta that week as a newly-signed representative of Nike. Pressing the flesh at a corporate outing the Wednesday night before the tournament, his job was to mingle, smile and politely answer questions from members of the media and various VIPs.
A year later his job description is very different. After winning two PGA Tour events this season — the Wachovia Championship and the AT&T National — and earning a spot on his first Ryder Cup team, he is not here to socialize. "I’m out here to work," he said Tuesday. "I’m out here as a member of the team, and whatever Captain Azinger needs of me, I’ll be there and do my best."
If the United States is going to win for the first time since 1999, it will need a big-time performance from this rookie. At Tuesday’s press conference, Kim seemed both aware of the challenge and eager to confront it. "I’m very excited," he said. "I’m more excited about being here and playing in the Ryder Cup, being a part of this team, than all the success [of this season] because this is what I’ve worked towards."
The 23-year-old star, known for flashy belt buckles, long drives and a killer instinct, was asked what intangibles he might bring to the United States team. "I don’t know what I bring, but I want to bring some birdies, to be honest with you," he said.
Kim had breakfast at the BMW Championship two weeks ago with Jim Furyk, and he has talked to Phil Mickelson, Justin Leonard and Chris DiMarco about what to expect this week.
"They all told me the same thing," he said. "It’s an emotional week, just try to relax, have fun. And I’m pretty good at doing both those things."
With Tiger Woods out, some European experts think Kim may fill the void. The Times of London said Sunday:
"Kim is perfect for the Ryder Cup. Adventurous enough to make the most of match play, he is fearless by nature and likely to thrive on the pressure."
In preparation for what is sure to be one of the most nerve-racking tee shots of his life, Kim is philosophical. "You know, there’s nothing you can really do to prepare for something you’ve never experienced. I’m just going to go out there, do what I normally do and have fun. Try not to swing out of my shoes and just get it down the fairway and start rolling."
If he can do that, who knows? Maybe the United States Ryder Cup team can get rolling too.