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Set to play in US for 1st time in 12 years, Anthony Kim says he's a new person in many ways

Wild Card player, Anthony Kim hits his shot from the fifth tee during the second round of the LIV Golf tournament at the Hong Kong Golf Club Fanling, Saturday, March 9, 2024 in Hong Kong. (Mike Stobe/LIV Golf via AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

DORAL, Fla. (AP) — Anthony Kim says he once texted 100 people an invitation to come to his home and take away all his golf equipment. He's watched golf in recent years only as a sleep aid. He claims to have learned just this week that Brooks Koepka won back-to-back majors, something that happened six years ago.

“I had no clue,” Kim said.

There is still a ton of mystery surrounding Kim, who left the game for more than a decade before returning this year as part of the LIV Golf League. He spoke out Thursday — the 14th anniversary of his third and most recent PGA Tour victory — about his comeback, without revealing much in the way of details about his absence and how bad things got for him along the way.

He'll play this week — LIV is at Doral, near Miami — in the U.S. for the first time since May 2012 when he withdrew after one round at Quail Hollow. Kim has a documentary coming out about what he's gone through and says the answers to the questions many have will be addressed there.

“When doctors are telling you that you may not have much time left, that’s a pretty rude awakening," Kim said. "And I still think about it to this day when I’m out there and I get frustrated with my golf, how far I’ve come. Other people don’t need to know the journey. I'm going to share it. The people that find inspiration and strength from it, I hope it can influence them in a positive way.”

He was once No. 6 in the world ranking, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour, someone who had three top 10s in majors — two at the British Open, one at the Masters — and was part of winning teams at the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup and Walker Cup. All that was before he turned 25.

He's 38 now. He and his wife have a daughter, Isabella, and she's all that matters, he said. He doesn't view playing LIV as a comeback, either. It's an entirely new chapter for someone who says he's an entirely different person.

He was a brash, confident kid with blinged-out belt buckles and a game to match. With three wins before turning 25, he was in a club alongside some of golf's most elite players — names like Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Sergio García and Adam Scott.

“I think it must be nice to be able to come back, honestly, but I can’t imagine from a competitive side how easy that would be,” Scott said this week in San Antonio, where he’s playing in the Texas Open.

“I see some guys who fall off the tour or take a break for a year or two and it’s hard work coming back. As far as competing goes, I’m sure he’s got a bit of a road in front of him, but I was a contemporary of his and played plenty of golf with him. If he’s in a good spot coming back to play, I’m pleased that the game’s still there for him.”

There were injury issues in 2009 that slowed Kim down, and three years later, he was totally derailed. He shot 74 in the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship in 2012, walked straight to his car and left. He ruptured his Achilles tendon getting ready for 2013 season, and then had a herniated disk.

In a 2015 interview with The Associated Press — his most recent interview before emerging with LIV — he said his injuries included a rotator cuff, labrum, spinal fusion and his hand, and that he had gone through at least six surgeries. He also said he was getting monthly payments from an insurance policy that cost “well into the mid-six figures” when he took it out in 2010 in case of injury.

“There’s not enough time to get into detail about all the things right now," Kim said Thursday when asked about what issues he dealt with. "I got professional help. I think that I didn’t deal with a lot of the trauma and whatever came from my life. And I buried it because I didn’t want to show anybody weakness. I thought by showing vulnerability, that was weakness. And I’ve come to a point in my life where I don’t care if somebody thinks that about me or not.”

Kim has played twice in LIV events so far. He was 53rd out of 53 finishers at his debut in Saudi Arabia, finishing 11 shots out of 52nd place and 33 shots behind winner Joaquin Niemann. In his next start, at Hong Kong, he was 50th out of 54 finishers, 16 shots behind winner Abraham Ancer — but ahead of Phil Mickelson and three others, and his final round of 65 tied for fifth-best in the field.

It was a sign of progress for someone who only rededicated himself to the game a couple months ago.

“I definitely think about my first career, my past career, or whatever you want to call it," Kim said. “There’s obviously good and bad memories to it, but I’m focused on what I’m doing now.”

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf