It's hard to not look at Anthony Kim and wonder "what if" most of the time. What if he took things a little more seriously and cut out the partying to spend more time on his game? What if he decided to forego having surgery on his thumb last year until after the Ryder Cup?
While you can play the "what if" game with a number of tour pros, Kim may top the list of budding, young superstars who've yet to live up to their full potential. If you were to plot his career on a chart, you'd notice a roller coaster theme
Every promising season is followed up by a letdown year that makes you question if Kim will ever get it right. As if on cue, he enjoyed a big season in 2010, winning in Houston and contending at the Masters with a torn ligament in his left thumb.
In an effort to be ready for the Ryder Cup, an event Kim ranks right up there with the four major championships, he decided to do the unthinkable -- foregoing the U.S. Open and the British Open to have surgery on his shredded digit.
But karma wasn't kind to AK; he never regained his form, going from a Ryder Cup lock to outside looking in, with four missed cuts in his first five events back.
This year suddenly became a question mark. Which Anthony Kim would show up in 2011? Would it be the dedicated one, or the one who tried to coast on past success?
So far, early indications suggest that this season could be a good one. After posting a T-13 and T-19 in his first two events, Kim fired a four-under 68 in Thursday's first round of the Farmers Insurance Open to get in contention.
The round consisted of numerous errant tee shots and missed opportunities. But if there was a silver lining to be had, it came in the form of a brilliant short game that was reminiscent of the one that allowed Kim to win in Houston last year.
He attributed a lot of his success to a new Nike putter he put in the bag earlier this week that currently has him ranked first in putting after one round.
"I kind of hit it all over the map," Kim said. "So the putter saved me. I'm using the new Nike putter that I put in on Tuesday, and obviously it worked."
As Kim mentioned last year, after his win in Houston, he seems to be at his best when he's grinding out pars and making clutch putts, something he did on Thursday.
Sure, it's only one round. But if Kim can continue to grind like he did last year, pre-surgery, there's a good chance 2011 could break his streak of roller coaster seasons.