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Watch: Anthony Kim hits horror shank in first round for 12 years as he sits last on LIV Golf debut

Anthony Kim
Anthony Kim is back in professional golf after a 12-year absence but had chastening start on his LIV debut - Francois Nel/Getty Images

A hard shank, a stone-cold top and a first-round mediocre enough to leave him adrift in last place. However, a 76 was hardly a disastrous comeback for Anthony Kim after a 12-year competitive absence, especially as Greg Norman alluded to “the dark hole AK had fallen into” just 12 months ago.

Norman was interviewed on the broadcast during the breakaway league’s $25 million event in Saudi Arabia and the LIV chief executive characteristically thrust himself to the fore of the narrative about the return that has gripped the sport.

Norman was delighted with the interest and was quick to point out that Kim’s top on his first hole was because of the sudden emergence of a drone up above. “He’d never heard one on a golf course before,” Norman said.

The shank on the fifth was something of a classic of the “J Arthur” variety, but Kim need not have been too humiliated as just a few weeks ago another golfer by the name of Tiger Woods did the same – and his time away had only been 10 months. More than 4,000 days had passed since Kim, the once American boy wonder and former world No 6, was last seen in action and his birdie on the sixth hinted that at least a sliver of that undoubted quality remains.

There were three bogeys in a row thereafter and two more in his remaining seven holes. “I played much better than the score,” Kim said, as the leaderboard showed he was two off Bubba Watson in 53rd and 14 off pacesetters Jon Rahm and Adrian Meronk. “That’s unfortunate, but I feel like I’m not that far away.”

Kim’s first message on his return was “Hello haters – I’m back” and his mission in Jeddah was plainly to quieten his critics, although who these happen to be in a hugely appreciative audience is, at the moment, unclear.

Norman is unworried either way. The Australian understands the allure of a pantomime villain and is also aware that Kim’s resurrection is a long-term production.

“Whatever happens today doesn’t really matter,” Norman said on the LIV telecast. “I said to Emily [his wife] on the first tee today, ‘The journey of 1,000 miles starts with a single step, and that first step is his first swing today.’ There’s going to be a process for him to go through. I’m just so happy for LIV, I’m happy for golf, I’m happy for AK and the family. His journey is going to be a fantastic thing.”

Anthony Kim
Anthony Kim feels he isn't too far away from being competitive on his return - Francois Nel/Getty Image

Norman credited Emily as the reason why Kim chose to re-emerge – “his interest back in the game of golf was created because of Emily” – but also emphasised his own role.

“It really started a couple of years ago, to be honest with you,” Norman said. “We reached out to AK early on [after LIV’s formation in 2022] and it wasn’t the right time for him. But I wanted him to know that we had interest in re-igniting him and bringing his passion and belief in the game of golf back out.”

Norman thought he had landed his man, but apparently Kim suffered a setback. Many on social media have commented in the last few days of how different the 38-year-old now looks and, in truth, the change seems to be too pronounced simply to blame on the ageing process. Norman’s words will only fuel the speculation.

“I watched him and I saw this talent and then to see him fall into this dark hole and then about a year ago to clean himself up, get himself back, injuries whatever it is and to see where he is today and to walk with him and be with him in the last month-and-a-half, six weeks, to go through this process,” he said.

“He didn’t want an agent, he wanted to do it all himself, he wanted to speak to me, he wanted to speak to one other person.”

That person was, yes, Norman, himself. He did not reveal the terms of Kim’s contract nor if LIV paid back the alleged $10 million cheque he received from an insurance company all those years ago on the proviso he would never be back on a professional fairway.

But there he was playing again on Friday – albeit in front of very few fans – with Norman forecasting a “fantastic future”. Not just for Kim, but for his circuit.

“AK will find himself in a better place,” Norman said. “Not this first round, not the second round, not the second tournament but when he starts feeling comfortable in himself, the talent will start oozing out. Will it be great for LIV? 100 percent. In a very short period of time we’ve stimulated new interest. AK always had a mystique about him and still has a cult following. He has been reinvigorated in life through his wife Emily and his daughter Bella.”

Not forgetting, Gregory John Norman, of course. Can the LIV saga get any more surreal?

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