Gola: U.S. could use Anthony Kim, but he has 10 million reasons not to play

Anthony Kim (l.) sets the tone early with Sergio Garcia, making the Spaniard putt on a gimmie.JOHN AMIS/AP Anthony Kim (l.) sets the tone early with Sergio Garcia, making the Spaniard putt on a gimmie.

It was 2008 at Valhalla, the last time the U.S. won the Ryder Cup.

Captain Paul Azinger had sic’d Anthony Kim on Sergio Garcia with the distinct mission of taking down the Spanish sparkplug in the opening singles match on Sunday. Each had stuck approach shots to about three feet on the first hole.

“Good-good?” Garcia asked, a sporting offer that would have been accepted more often than not.

“Let’s putt ’em,” Kim said, setting a no-nonsense tone for a match that he would win going away, 5-and-4, as the Euros fell like dominos.

At the time, it appeared that Kim, aggressive and cocky at just 23, was considered a possible successor to Tiger Woods and a Ryder Cup fixture for years. Indeed, imagine him as a catalyst on an American team that will take on the heavily-favored Europeans in Scotland next week.

But these days, Kim isn’t saying, “let’s putt ’em.” He hasn’t hit a golf ball in a PGA Tour event since 2012 and, according to a Golf.com report, his mysterious absence from the game has everything to do with an insurance policy that Kim took out against any career-ending injury, reportedly worth at least $10 million.

According to the story, Kim told a friend, “If I take one swing on Tour, the policy is voided.”

Kim had three PGA Tour wins to his credit when pulled out of the 2012 Wells Fargo Championship, citing injuries to his wrist, thumb and elbow. Those were followed by an Achilles injury suffered while running on the beach. Since then, he’s gone into virtual hiding, showing up at high stakes card games or night spots in his adopted hometown of Dallas, and occasionally on some practice ranges.

While the range time suggests he might be back one day, the late night sightings re-enforce his bad boy image as a party animal.

At the ’09 Presidents Cup, for instance, Kim’s singles opponent, Robert Allenby said friends saw Kim getting back to the team hotel “sideways” five hours before they teed off. This was after Kim thrashed the Aussie, 5-and-3.

“Maybe we should all take the theory of Anthony Kim,” Allenby said. “Get home at 4 o’clock (in the morning) and then go shoot 6 under.”

Kim disputed Allenby’s charges that he had drunk up San Francisco but the legend grew.

A year later, a DJ at the Bellagio in Vegas tweeted that Kim had bought 115 bottles of alcohol and a $25,000 bottle of Dom Perignon the night before he withdrew from the Las Vegas Open with a thumb injury.

He called the account of that night “exaggerated” but would eventually admit he needed to re-dedicate himself to the game.

According to the report, Kim, who earned $12.2 million in seven seasons on the PGA Tour, would have to earn an estimated $35 million, including endorsements, to clear what he could be paid not to play. It’s a gamble he’s reportedly considering.

Meanwhile, he could have helped out the longshot Americans if he was the same player he was six years ago.

“His absence is definitely felt,” Phil Mickelson told Golf.com. “The A.K. of 2008 was so impressive. He had guts. He wasn’t afraid of anyone or anything. He had every shot, and he just kept coming, making birdie after birdie.”

The U.S. hasn’t won since the day Kim made the last of those.

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