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Monday Leaderboard: Anthony Kim’s return, Charlie Woods’ hurdle, and when walk-and-talk goes wrong

In Sports
February 26, 2024
Taylar Sievert / Yahoo Sports

Taylar Sievert / Yahoo Sports

Welcome to the Monday Leaderboard, where we run down the weekend’s top stories in the wonderful world of golf. Grab an Arnold Palmer, pull up a chair, and think about what you’d do with your time if you took 11 years off from your job …

1. The return (?) of Anthony Kim

If you weren’t plugged into the golf world for a very short, specific slice of time between about 2008 and 2012, you might have missed the legend of Anthony Kim, a cheerful, grinning wizard who brought a party-bro energy to a sport mired in Tiger Woods worship. Kim arrived right as the Woods aura was deflating thanks to Woods’ own injuries and indiscretions.

Anthony Kim presaged the era of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka, post-Tiger players who brought youth and fire to a traditionally khaki game. Kim had skills; he won three PGA Tour events, and still holds the record for most birdies in a round at the Masters, with 11. But injuries piled up, and after he ruptured his Achilles in 2012, he vanished from the game … and we do mean vanished.

Kim reportedly had a $10 million insurance policy that would void if he played professional golf again, so he became golf’s Bigfoot — appearing only in glimpses every few years. Rumors persisted that one day he would return … and apparently, that day is now here.

The one place a former star could go to get the equivalent of a $10 million policy is, of course, LIV Golf … and it’s there that Kim is reportedly set to play next, starting this weekend in Saudi Arabia. For Kim, it’s a no-lose proposition; there’s no cut in LIV Golf, no risk of failing to bring home a check. If he plays well enough, he could earn his way onto an existing LIV team … and set himself up for a PGA Tour return whenever the sport’s two warring goliaths make peace.

As excited as golf fans are for a Kim return, there is this: The dude has been away from competitive golf for more than a decade. Not even Tiger Woods could bounce back into competitive form quickly from his many layoffs, and he only took months off at a time. It’s possible — likely, even — that Kim will be only a faint shadow of himself, the way that a reunited band doesn’t sound like the original, the way that a reunited TV show or movie franchise doesn’t hit the same way it once did. But that’s OK; for as much fun as the guy brought us back around the turn of the 2010s, he can do whatever he wants.

Also, for a look at how long it’s been since Kim was on Tour … this is what Rory McIlroy looked like back then:

(Stephen Pond - PA Images via Getty Images)

(Stephen Pond – PA Images via Getty Images)

2. Jake Knapp and his mullet are champs

And now for a current PGA Tour star-in-the-making … meet Jake Knapp, who won the Mexico Open in just his ninth start on Tour, and despite hitting just two fairways on Sunday. Knapp stumbled early in his final round but held off a charging Sami Valimaki. Sure, most of the PGA Tour’s best were elsewhere this weekend, but so what? Knapp still gets an invitation into the Masters and The Players this year.

Not only that, Knapp has one of the better Alabama Waterfalls you’ll see on Tour. If this heralds a return of the mullet, we’re all in on Knapp Time.

(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

(AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

3. Patty Tavatanakit averts disaster, wins big

The toughest aspect of winning a golf tournament is that literally no lead is ever safe. In football or basketball, with a big enough lead you can just hold the ball and let the clock run out. In golf, you can be leading by five shots on the back nine on Sunday — as Patty Tavatanakit was at the Honda LPGA Thailand — and still almost give it all away. Tavatanakit stumbled on Sunday right as Albane Valenzuela’s putter caught fire; Valenzuela one-putted the final 11 holes. The two were tied as Tavatanakit walked off the 16th, but Tavatanakit birdied the 18th to claim the title in her home country.

4. Charlie Woods takes another step forward

Look, let’s be honest: When you decide to go into a field where your dad is one of the best to ever do it, you’re going to be facing some tall expectations. Charlie Woods knows this, and seemingly embraces it. That’s impressive. Not impressive? The fan behavior at a pre-qualifying event for the Cognizant Classic in Florida.

Woods failed to qualify, with an octuple-bogey 12 at the par-4 12th killing his chances. Over-eager fans, who clambered for a look at young Woods, certainly disrupted his game. Between this and the chaos at the WM Phoenix Open, it’s been a pretty unimpressive month for golf fans.

5. Fellas, the ladies don’t need your help

We’ve all been there — you hit a shot, and some condescending wiseass decides you need his advice. But usually, it’s because we skulled or shanked one. Not so with PGA certified instructor Georgia Ball, who was warming up at the range — and hitting magnificent drives — when some dope tried to offer his oh-so-valuable advice. She struck yet another spectacular shot, and he promptly took credit for it. Most of us probably would have wrapped the club around the dude’s neck, but Ball didn’t, and that serenity is probably why she’s better at golf than us.

Now, it’s entirely possible this entire event was just staged for the likes, but you know it happens everywhere, all the time. Fellas, here’s a tip for you: if she can drive, chip and putt better than you, she doesn’t need your help. And even if she can’t … she still doesn’t need your help.

The mulligan: When walk-and-talk goes horribly wrong

In the never-ending quest to get fans as close to the game as possible, broadcasters have managed to persuade some players to commentate on their rounds as they’re happening. It’s always fascinating, but not always in a way that benefits the player. Matthew Wallace was in the midst of a walk-and-talk on Saturday at the Mexico Open when his approach shot found the water. Ouch.

Given the chance to ditch the interview, Wallace declined, opting to face his mistakes head-on.

“This is part of it. I need to deal with this,” Wallace said. “I need to get stronger; I need to play better golf and accept this. Get this up and down and we go again. I can’t do anything more than what I’m trying to do right now. It’s not going my way.”

Rough afternoon for Wallace, but nice job of owning up, taking responsibility and learning from the debacle. But we’ll understand if he never wants to wear those earbuds again.

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