LA QUINTA, Calif. – Anthony Kim won't turn 27 until mid-June, which means he has a lifetime of golf ahead of him, and it also means he still qualifies as one of the PGA Tour's outstanding young guns. But you wouldn't know it from the buzz he generates these days, as in zero. When it comes to twentysomethings, people bring up Rory McIlroy or Rickie Fowler or Dustin Johnson or Keegan Bradley. Kim is forgotten, old news, a partier, a guy who threw away his potential.
Kim gets it. He knows his record as well as anyone – he has posted only one win and nine top-10 finishes during the last three years – and he knows he hasn't exactly lived like a monk. "I'm not going to deny that I have a good time," Kim admitted after a second consecutive 2-under 70 on the Palmer Course at PGA West put him way back in the pack halfway through the Humana Challenge. But he also knows it won't take much for the critics to quickly reverse course.
"I know a lot of people have written me off," he said. "It's nothing that a few wins won't take care of."
The sky seemed the limit for Kim back in 2008. He won the prestigious Wachovia Championship and the AT&T National, placed sixth on the money list with earnings of more than $4.6 million and outdueled Sergio Garcia in the leadoff singles match at the Ryder Cup. He could hit the ball a mile and make putts from the next county. He was clearly one of the game's future stars.
Golf came easy to him, too easy. He didn't work hard enough, and the numbers showed. He also got hurt, the worst injury being a problem with his left thumb which plagued him for much of 2010. It's hard enough to play this game healthy.
That all has changed now. He is healthy and hungry. He says he has worked hard the past two years and is prepared to work harder. Whatever it takes.
[ Related: At 42, time is running out on Phil Mickelson ]
He also has worked hard on being patient. The ninth hole on Friday was a perfect example.
He hit a long drive that started out a bit left, caught the wrong slope and trickled into the water. It was a result he probably didn't deserve. Last year, the bad break, which happens in just about every round of golf, for both heroes and hackers, would have made him lose it. "I would have made a nine," Kim suggested. This time, however, after taking a penalty stroke, he found the putting surface with his third shot, and proceeded to two-putt from about 35 feet for a bogey. The damage had been kept to a minimum.
Another priority is not to overthink, which is what he did last year before putting his clubs away for about six weeks in the fall. He said he was standing over the ball too long, and, at times, even forgetting his yardage and where he was aiming. Now he gets up there and just rips it.
After the time off, he compiled two thirds and a second in Asia, including a playoff loss to McIlroy at the Shanghai Masters. He was headed in the right direction.
The first two days here, Kim insists, is not an indication of where his game is. Playing in front of his family and friends, Kim, who lives in Dallas but still has a home in the area, was too excited. That won't be the case the rest of the year.
[ Devil Ball: Tiger Woods irked by former coach's book ]
Will he get back to where he was in 2008, if not beyond? It's too early to say. He has claimed before that he has matured, yet the stories of his affection for the party life have not gone away. They won't until he wins, and wins consistently.
The competition is stiffer than it was three or four years ago. There are a lot more young guns, and more will be coming.
Kim is ready for them. The triumph over Garcia at Valhalla remains one of the highlights of his career. It helped set the tone as the United States took down a mighty European team.
He was asked about the possibility of being in a similar position again.
"I will be getting back to that," said Kim, searching for his first victory since the 2010 Houston Open.
"I'm very confident in what I am doing right now. My bad shots are starting to squeeze into the middle of the fairway instead of going out of bounds. I'm going to make birdies, and I'm going to play well."
Other popular stories on Yahoo! Sports:
• Jim Harbaugh's detour on way to 49ers | More Giants-49ers coverage
• Video: Quentin Richardson plays defense from the bench
• 'Two-Dumbbell Shred' will get you fully toned