Anthony Kim spent the final hour of the 74th Masters in the Augusta National players’ lounge, his best chance to win a major fading in the dying light. As a clubhouse TV showed Phil Mickelson making par on 17, Kim walked outside to a golf cart, which ferried him to the scorer’s trailer behind the 18th green.
Once there, Kim spotted Amy Mickelson, and the two hugged after one of the most emotional Masters of all time. Kim, at last, allowed a smile to wash over his face.
A night earlier Kim had been beside himself. On an ideal day for scoring, his play had been erratic in a third-round 73. He spent part of Saturday evening watching video of his swing with his coach, Adam Schriber, and the two noticed that Kim’s hips were spinning too fast.
“All my weight was going to my left heel as soon as I took [the club] back, and that was creating a lot of hooks, and the brother to that is the push,” Kim said. “I could not get the ball in the fairway, so we said, ‘Stay on my left side and swing as hard as I can, and hopefully it finds the fairway.’ “
On Sunday, playing a draw instead of his usual fade, Kim shot a tournament-low 65 and finished four shots behind Mickelson, but he couldn’t help but reflect on what might have been. After winning the Shell Houston Open the previous week for his third PGA Tour victory, Kim finished the Masters ranked 46th in driving accuracy of the 48 players who made the cut.
All the while he has been nursing a small tear in a tendon in his left thumb. “I’ve had it for about 15, 16 months,” Kim said. “It’s not going away, so I have to take care of it. Surgery is going to be the last resort. I’m taking some medicine, and I took a cortisone shot a couple of months ago to relieve the pain, but it’s affecting my swing.”
Says Schriber, “He can’t really hit balls and he can’t practice, so we try to replicate his swing in the gym using resistance bands and a medicine ball.”
That Kim has been able to compete—and win—speaks to his audacious talent. Once known for a partying streak a mile wide, the 24-year-old Kim has become a more dedicated pro.
“I feel as if I’ve gotten over a little hump when I felt like things were stalling,” he says. “I know now that with my attitude, if I can get my ball striking to what it was, I’m going to be at a different level.”
Kim has already played some of his best golf at Augusta National, making a record 11 birdies in the second round last year in his first appearance. He finished 20th.
On Sunday he made another run. Trailing overnight leader Lee Westwood by seven shots, he dashed through a four-hole stretch on the back nine in five under par, getting within a shot of Mickelson. “Just knowing that even without my best stuff I hung in there, made some putts and made some things happen, I feel like if I get the ball in the fairway, this is a great golf course for me,” Kim said.
It is for Mickelson, who has a short game that Kim rivals on occasion. If he can find more fairways, Kim should one day get fitted for a green jacket of his own.