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Kim sits in last at LIV event in return to pro golf

After a nearly 12-year hiatus from professional golf, Anthony Kim‘s return went about as well as one could have expected in the first round of LIV Golf Jeddah in Saudi Arabia on Friday.

Kim, who last played on the PGA Tour at the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship before he walked away from golf after a series of injuries, was last in the 54-man field after carding a 6-over 76.

“Obviously disappointed with the score, but I played much better than the score,” Kim told reporters after the round. “I’ve got a lot to build on. Just made a lot of unforced errors and that was unfortunate, but I feel like I’m not that far away.”

Kim was 14 strokes behind co-leaders Adrian Meronk and Jon Rahm, who led the way in the individual competition after posting 8-under 62s at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club at King Abdullah Economic City.

The 38-year-old Kim is competing as a wild card, meaning his scores won’t count in the team competition. He was one of eight players in the field to post a score above par.

“I would be lying to say that I didn’t have certain expectations,” Kim said. “At least even if I played [badly], I thought I would shoot around par. It was unfortunate that I made so many unforced errors from the middle of the fairway. That’s generally my strength is my iron game. To make so many unforced errors is really disappointing.”

Rahm’s Legion XIII squad, which includes England’s Tyrrell Hatton, former University of Tennessee star Caleb Surratt and Zimbabwe’s Kieran Vincent, led the team competition with a total of 17 under, 1 stroke better than captain Louis Oosthuizen‘s Stinger GC team.

Beginning on No. 18 in LIV Golf’s shotgun-start format, Kim’s round got off to an inauspicious start with a bogey on the par-5, 607-yard hole. He followed that with four straight pars before struggling mightily from there.

On the par-4 fifth hole, Kim shanked his approach shot and ended up making a bogey. On the TV broadcast, LIV Golf CEO and commissioner Greg Norman said Kim was distracted by a drone flying above him.

“There’s a lot of changes he has to get readjusted to,” Norman said. “The drone was overhead, and he hadn’t heard it before. He just cold-popped it.”

Kim recovered to make a 25-footer for birdie on the next hole, but then he posted three straight bogeys to finish the front nine. He picked up two more bogeys without a birdie on the final eight holes.

“Whatever happens today doesn’t really matter,” Norman said during the broadcast. “I said to [Kim’s wife] Emily 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 will be a process for him to go through.”

Norman said he reached out to Kim about joining LIV Golf more than two years ago, but the timing wasn’t right. He said Kim’s wife and young daughter, Bella, helped the three-time PGA Tour winner get his life back in order.

“Very few people know what it’s like to be in the upper level like he was,” Norman said. “He was an incredible player. I watched him, and I saw this talent. To see him fall into this dark hole, and then about a year ago to clean himself up and get himself back off injuries and whatever it is, and to see where he is today … he has been reinvigorated in life through his wife Emily and through his daughter Bella. It’s brought something back to him.”

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