Friday 15 December 2017

Kim proves fast lane is no route to glory

Anthony Kim knows how to celebrate, with money no object as the bubbly flows.
Anthony Kim knows how to celebrate, with money no object as the bubbly flows.

Karl McGinty

REPORTS of Anthony Kim spraying a $25,000 bottle of Dom Perignon all over his pals in a Las Vegas nightclub last week certainly caught my eye. Do people really pay $25,000 for a bottle for champagne? Wow!

That the 25-year-old bachelor and nearly two dozen of his chums might be whooping it up until the wee small hours in Vegas hardly comes as a surprise. Kim has worked hard on cultivating his reputation as one of the biggest party animals on the PGA Tour since hellraiser John Daly got his lap-band stomach surgery.

Kim and his mates certainly aren't the first and won't be the last group of boisterous young men around a craps table to be advised by casino security staff to mind their manners.

A follow-up report in the 'Las Vegas Review Journal' revealed: "We hear the final tab for golfer Anthony Kim's champagne-spraying spree came to about $80,000."

Yet my research suggests that's a drop in the ice bucket. Stunned that Kim or anyone else would pay $25,000 for just one bottle of bubbly, however large, I checked a few Las Vegas price lists ... and discovered a Dom Perignon White Gold Jerboam (that's three litres) will set you back $100,000 at Vanity night club. That doesn't include 8.1pc sales tax or the 20pc gratuity added to all bills. So Kim actually skimped on his pals.

As for his subsequent withdrawal from last weekend's Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, hosted by Kim's good friend Justin Timberlake, one readily accepts it was due to a problem with his left thumb.

Apparently, after a six-week break to rest the thumb, which required surgery last spring, Kim worked a little too hard on the range fine-tuning his game and equipment. So when the digit became stiff and sore the Saturday before his arrival in Vegas, he was advised by medics not to hit balls until Wednesday's pro-am and to withdraw from the tournament if the problem persisted.

Popping

It did, so he did, though some commentators inevitably suggested that popping champagne corks into the wee small hours can't be good for an injured thumb. But just as every professional golfer has the right to practise as long and work as hard as he chooses, he's also perfectly entitled to spray away his talent.

The US Tour will fine (privately) any player it considers guilty of bringing the game into disrepute but when the 'damage' is purely personal, as it was in this instance, the problem is Kim's alone. Had he been representing his country in Las Vegas, it'd be a different matter.

For example, Kim's obvious enjoyment of an occasional late-night tipple was the subject of huge controversy at last year's Presidents Cup, when his vanquished Aussie opponent Robert Allenby initially expressed displeasure at being beaten by a player he accused of "coming in sideways at 4am" on the morning of their match.

Though one of America's top performers at the 2008 Ryder Cup, where he forged a formidable partnership with Phil Mickelson and crushed Sergio Garcia in the singles, a reliable source reported that Kim landed himself in hot water with his girlfriend and caused red faces all round with one embarrassing behind-the-scenes faux pas in Louisville.

Yet even if the World No 21 has every right to behave as he likes on his own time, it's still vital for events like those in Vegas last week to get a full airing in the media. People need to know what's going on in the life of one of US golf's hottest prospects and should be made aware of all the possible reasons -- from sore thumbs to Monday night fever -- why such a talented young man has not achieved his full potential.

Kim's play-off win at The Shell Houston Open in April was his third in four full years on the US Tour but his record pales alongside that of another 25-year-old, Martin Kaymer.

The German won his first Major title at PGA Championship; holds a commanding lead in the Race to Dubai after recently completing a rare hat-trick of European Tour wins and will replace Tiger Woods atop the World Rankings next Sunday should he win or finish second on his own or with just one other player at this week's Andalucia Valderrama Masters.

With respect to the worthy World No 2 Lee Westwood, who rests up this week but will displace Tiger under the quirky workings of the points system should Kaymer not deliver in Valderrama, one fervently hopes this signal honour is earned on the golf course next Sunday and not off it.

Kaymer is the best player in the world at present. Satisfyingly, he also happens to be the anti-Kim. This straight-laced young man stunned photographers by declining even to kiss the giant Wanamaker Trophy in the wake of his PGA Championship victory, while his victory party took place in a fast-food restaurant.

Revealing he toasted his first win at the Majors with close friends, Kaymer added the celebration took place: "late that night in a McDonald's somewhere between Whistling Straits and Chicago airport. It was just perfect."

Inevitably, some leap to Kim's defence, suggesting golf needs more 'colourful' characters. Are players like Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler not exciting enough? These guys can thrill thousands with their shot-making -- and don't need to squirt vintage champagne over nightclub revellers to make themselves appear 'interesting'.

Those who suggest golf lacks adventure or excitement obviously missed last month's Ryder Cup climax. Though shunned by the megastars and played in front of dwindling crowds, the PGA Tour's 'Fall Series' has in recent weeks produced a couple of incredibly dramatic finishes.

For example, Jonathan Byrd completed the most astonishing coup de grace in golf history as darkness fell over Last Vegas last Sunday, landing a sensational ace on the fourth hole of sudden death to beat Aussie Cameron Percy and defending champion Martin Laird of Scotland.

"Did that go in? You gotta be kidding me," said Byrd, who'd struggled in the gloom to see his superlative 204-yards six-iron pitch 10 feet from the hole, hop once and then roll into the cup, clinching a fourth PGA Tour victory for the 36-year-old and ensuring he has a job for the next two years.

A worldwide TV audience witnessed history being made as a PGA Tour event was decided for the first time by a hole-in-one. To see it happening live was indeed a thrill.

Across the Atlantic in Spain, another momentous event took place on Sunday, and how wonderful it was to hear Dubliner Peter Lawrie's assessment of Matteo Manassaro after the gifted Italian became the youngest winner on the European Tour at 17 years and 188 days old.

"He seems to be cut from the same exciting mould as Seve Ballesteros or Rory McIlroy," said Lawrie, who tied third behind Manassaro on Sunday. "He has that little bit of an aura about him and seems like a superstar going forward. But he also hangs around with the other lads (on Tour) and is an all-round nice guy. He's a lovely fellow and deserves any success he gets."

For all his precocious talent on the golf course, the youngster is blessed with modesty off it. When Manassaro was asked what he might buy with his €333,330 first prize, he replied: "I'm not old enough to drive and don't have a girlfriend so I really have nothing to spend the money on."

One suspects that even when he's old enough, the level-headed Italian is unlikely to splash out on $25,000 bottles of champagne. In that regard at least, Kim must rank in a league of his own among professional golfers.

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