- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 2, 2009

Minutes before AT&T National host Tiger Woods took to the tee for his opening round at Congressional, defending champion Anthony Kim tossed down the gauntlet, scorching Old Blue with a course-record 62 to send a strong message to his idol.

“This golf course just really fits my eye,” said the 24-year-old Kim after hitting 17 greens during his bogey-free opening salvo. “I didn’t do anything spectacular. I just hit quality golf shots and made putts from 10-15 feet.”

Mother Nature deserves an assist for Kim’s assault. The 120-man field turned up expecting a preview of the 2011 U.S. Open, and Woods did his part by ordering a firm, fast setup with lengthy rough. But the weather failed to comply, softening the oft-daunting 7,255-yard, par-70 layout with a series of overnight thunderstorms.

With Old Blue stripped of its customary bite, the aggressive Kim took the offensive, starting with a solid 33 on the back nine and boiling to the finish with a 29 on the front nine, which included birdies from inside 10 feet on Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 8. He jarred one bomb at the 7th (28 feet) and also parlayed a couple lucky breaks into the lowest score posted at Congressional in 13 PGA Tour events and majors dating back to the 1964 U.S. Open.

“I do seem to get lucky around here, as opposed to everywhere else,” said Kim, who won last year with a score of 12-under (268). “On No. 3, I hit a drive 10 to 15 yards right of the fairway, and it kicked left and left me in a good spot. That one could have gone behind a tree, but it stayed just off the fairway, and I made a good birdie there. On the very next hole, I hit almost the same drive, but it flew the trees and was so far right that I had a perfect angle and made another birdie.”

Kim nearly holed a 10-footer at the 9th for a 61, though he wasn’t aware that he had set the course record until after his round.

Thursday’s result was a relief for Kim, who has dealt with everything from a nearly broken jaw to bursitis in his shoulder to a sprained thumb this season, recording just one top-10 finish in the wake of last year’s brilliant two-victory breakout. But he’s finally over the thumb injury which plagued him for the last two months. And between that health and a new driver to facilitate his favored fade off the tee, Thursday’s Kim was finding fairways and firing at flags like the “AK” of ‘09.

“My goal is still to win major tournaments, but it would be great to knock one out this week and get a win,” Kim said. “I’m finally getting to the point where I feel I’m able to win every time I tee it up.”

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