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U.S. Open: Anthony Kim Tries to Turn Season Around

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U.S. Open: Anthony Kim Tries to Turn Season Around
(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
If you want to become a fan favorite in golf, you have to stand out.

Less than a week away from his 24th birthday, Anthony Kim knows a thing or two about making an impression.

The young swashbuckler has the confidence and the game of one of the top players in the world.

Last year was truly a breakout season for Kim, as he won twice on tour. Kim took charge at the Wachovia Championship for his first career win and followed that up just over two months later, winning Tiger's tournament at the AT&T National.

The joyride continued at the end of the season, as Kim played an integral role on the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which took home the trophy for the first time since the miracle comeback in 1999.

Kim went 2-1-1 that week, including an emphatic 5 & 4 victory over Ryder Cup superstar Sergio Garcia

It was definitely a "hello world" moment of his own when he finished the year ranked as one of the top 10 golfers in the world.

Kim certainly sees himself becoming Tiger Woods' rival, something we all desperately want.

Call him cocky, but Kim and his oversized belt buckles bring a big bit of panache to the PGA Tour, a tour desperately seeking other stars to help ease its dependence on Woods.

While most professionals have to deal with demons and question their own self-worth, Kim was more frustrated at not winning every time he teed up.

Watching him on The Haney Project showed us the similarities between the budding superstar and proverbial All-Star Charles Barkley. Kim has the mouth and the game to silence his critics.

However, 2009 has not exactly gone according to plan for Anthony Kim.

After tying for second at the Mercedes-Benz Championship to open the year, Kim has struggled mightily to avoid big numbers on the scorecard.

His best finish since the opening tournament was a tie for 17th.

This was the man who was supposed to carry the mantle for American golf while Woods was on the shelf, but now some have begun to question whether he has the mental toughness to ever match the worldly talent he possesses.

Is he more of a Tiger Woods or a John Daly?

No round typified Kim's 2009 year better than the second round of the Masters at Augusta National.

Kim had four pars the entire round, mixing 11 birdies with two bogeys and a double-bogey to boot.

The 11 birdies broke the Masters record for most in a round, but Kim could not get out of his own way.

His aggressive nature that leads to big shots can also lead to big numbers. That feast or famine nature has cost him dearly in 2009.

Despite being third on tour at birdie average, he is 146th in scoring average.

Knowing where not to miss is something that comes with experience, and perhaps the young superstar is simply experiencing a sharp learning curve.

So how will Kim fare at Bethpage Black, the third U.S. Open of his career?

Statistically his game fits the course, ranking as one of the longer drivers on tour, and he has the best birdie conversion rate on tour.

Obviously, when it comes to majors, you have to keep your ball in the fairway. Kim is around the middle of the pack when it comes to driving accuracy, and with the U.S. Open rough, it will be imperative that he finds the short grass.

Ultimately though, it will be Kim's decision-making that proves the difference. He has to understand, particularly in the U.S. Open, when to be aggressive.  

Sometimes golf is about taking the path of least resistance, and even if it's not the flashiest shot, it may be the correct one.

Seeing how the New York crowds react to this young phenom may be one of the more intriguing aspects of this tournament. New Yorkers obviously like confidence and bravado, but you need to back it up.

If Kim plays well, the crowd is going to be eating out of his palm. His theatrics will only electrify the audience.

If Kim continues his erratic play, though, you can expect the galleries to turn rather quickly on the young man. If you talk the talk in New York, you have to walk the walk.

Will Kim find his game? 

Will he fall apart on the back nine?

Whatever the answer, one thing is for certain: It will be entertaining!

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