LIV Golf’s Anthony Kim opens up about “scam artists,” surgeries in David Feherty interview

The rise of Anthony Kim during the early 2010s mystified the golf world. His exciting, aggressive style led many to believe he would become the next American superstar.

Then, after the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, he disappeared after suffering an Achilles injury. Nobody knew where he went, what happened to him, or how he was doing. No one had heard from him for nearly a dozen years, leaving many to wonder what if.

But for the first time, Kim opened up about what he had been through with David Feherty, who now works as a broadcaster for LIV Golf. The two discussed Kim’s life in a recent documentary posted to LIV Golf Plus.

“I had not played any golf until about two-and-a-half or three months ago when I got the call from [LIV Golf CEO] Greg Norman about playing again,” Kim said.

“I wasn’t even considering playing golf. My expectations are to take it day by day, work hard, and see where that gets me. The guys are getting better. I have been away for a long time, and there is a lot of rust. But I feel like I am able to compete if I work on the right things.”

Anthony Kim, LIV Golf
Anthony Kim.
Getty Images

Kim returned to professional golf in early March at a LIV Golf event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He shot two 6-over 76s and concluded the 54-hole event with a 4-over 74, which is pretty impressive for his first tournament in more than a decade. He most recently carded a 5-under 65 at LIV Golf Hong Kong, his lowest professional score since July 30, 2011, when he shot an 8-under 62 at The Greenbrier Classic on the PGA Tour.

“You know, I thought on every shot,” Kim said of his play in Hong Kong.

“It’s easy to throw away one shot. Two shots and that can throw the momentum off in your golf. But I did everything I could to play well, and hopefully, I can build on that.”

During his time away, Kim revealed that he had numerous surgeries—too many to count. Along with an operation on his Achilles, he had procedures done on his shoulder and hand. He even received a spinal fusion—not dissimilar to what Will Zalatoris and Tiger Woods have undergone in recent years.

“I’m actually hitting the ball farther now than when I left the game,” Kim said. “Perhaps all this metal is helping me. I am hoping I don’t have any more surgeries upcoming.”

But Kim, who described himself as having an “addictive personality,” found himself hanging around tough characters during this time period, which sent his life spiraling after his final PGA Tour event at Quail Hollow.

“I was around some bad people—people who took advantage of me, scam artists,” Kim said.

“When you are 24 or 25 or even 30 years old, you don’t realize the snakes that are living under your roof. But you know, through the grace of God, I am here and able to tell my story and hopefully inspire other people.”

That led Feherty, a self-described addict, to respond with: “That reminds me of an old Keith Richards line. There is a difference between scratching your ass and tearing yourself a new one.”

David Feherty, LIV Golf
David Feherty.
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

“I definitely tore myself two new ones,” Kim responded. “The mind is a very tricky, scary place. And unfortunately, I didn’t handle it well before.”

During that period, Kim said he lived in an “Animal House, literally and figuratively.” He owned six dogs and two monkeys and hung out with his animals and other characters who led him astray. He did not get into specific details about what other individuals did, or what addictions he had, but he clearly suffered through a difficult stretch.

“I knew I needed help for a long time. I knew I had battles mentally that I have never talked about with anybody and kept to myself,” the former Ryder Cup star added.

“Through lots of conversations with very important people in my life, I got help, and I started to turn my life around about a year and a half ago.”

One key turning point for Kim was when his daughter Bella entered the world. You can see how much he loves his two-year-old daughter as his face radiates joy when he speaks of her. He described Bella as his “everything.”

He even has a little ‘B’ on his golf ball now, which includes a heart. That little symbol calms Kim down during tournaments, bringing him to a comfortable and cheerful place in his mind.

“I had no self-worth until I became a father,” Kim said.

Anthony Kim, LIV Golf
Anthony Kim during the first round of the 2024 LIV Golf Invitational — Jeddah.
Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images

“I really didn’t feel that. But now I have a duty and a responsibility to take care of my family and being the best role model for my daughter as I can be… My ultimate inspiration is my daughter. Through this platform at LIV, she gets to see the world and that’s my dream for her: be happy, experience the world, and live a life where she feels loved and cared for.”

Amazingly, doctors told Kim that being a father was likely not possible because of “all the things his body had been through.” That disappointed him greatly, but, God had a plan for Kim, and the 38-year-old is beyond blessed to have a loving, caring family around him.

“Thank god she looks like her mom,” Kim said.

“I am so blessed to have both of those women in my life. I wake up feeling gratitude every morning.”

The former Oklahoma Sooner also spoke highly of his wife, who supported him through thick and thin and encouraged him to take up the game once again. She wanted to learn how to play, so Kim helped her and re-introduced himself to the game that made him so popular all those years ago.

“I have an interesting relationship with golf. I don’t think I have ever loved it,” Kim revealed.

“What’s very weird to me right now is that I feel like I am falling in love with the game. That’s such a weird thing to me because golf was filled with pressure. Golf has lots of different emotions for me because my family had to go through a lot for me to play golf. That added pressure; I was willing to risk a lot more; that was my nature. I was aggressive on the golf course. I was aggressive off the golf course, and that led to my demise.”

Now, Kim can reflect on his experiences, use his current platform to tell his story and inspire other people who struggle.

The world is full of tension, pain, addiction, and demise. People struggle every day, whether physically, mentally, or with addictions, and Kim knows that better than anyone. So, hopefully, his story can help others dig themselves out of dark, deep, and seemingly inescapable holes and shed light on those same individuals who need support.

Jack Milko is a golf staff writer for SB Nation’s Playing Through. Be sure to check out @_PlayingThrough for more golf coverage. You can follow him on Twitter @jack_milko as well.