- Jason Sobel, Senior Golf Writer
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At the age of 23, Anthony Kim very well may be the future of golf -- except for one small problem. He's already a present-day superstar.
The California Kid has enjoyed a coming-out party in 2008 after victories in the Wachovia Championship and AT&T National while amassing nearly $4.3 million in earnings.
He also punched a ticket to his first Ryder Cup. Before partaking in the competition at Valhalla, Kim sat down on the ESPN.com Hot Seat to discuss his relationship with Sergio Garcia, a potential rivalry with Tiger Woods and how the current year has differed from 2007.
Q: The last time the Ryder Cup was played in the U.S., you were still in college. Two years ago, you didn't even have a PGA Tour card yet. Do you have to pinch yourself sometimes to make sure this is all really happening?
A: Well, it's definitely pretty special to have it happen, but I'm ready for it. I'm ready for the challenge and ready to bring that Cup back home.
Q: How much have you watched of previous Ryder Cups? Been glued to the TV, or busy working on your own game?
A: I haven't really watched too many of the Ryder Cups. I think I watched the one at Brookline [in 1999], because the U.S. was down so much and I wanted to see if they could come back. But other than that, I haven't really watched too many of them.
Q: Be honest with me: I know you're a confident player, but at the beginning of the season, did you see yourself making this team?
A: I did. That was my goal for this year. One of my main goals was to obviously be prepared for every tournament I play, but to make this Ryder Cup team. Now that it's happened, it feels pretty good.
Q: Have you spoken with some of the veteran players about what the week will entail?
A: I have. They've said, "Rest up, get ready for a pretty emotional week and let the golf take care of itself."
Q: What's the single best piece of advice you've been given in advance of the Ryder Cup?
A: Play golf like you know how.
Q: Hunter Mahan, who has made as many previous Ryder Cup appearances (0) as yourself, recently said players are treated like "slaves" during the week. What was your reaction to those comments?
A: Well, I know Hunter didn't mean that. I've known Hunter for a while, so I know that's not what he would say. He obviously made a mistake. I don't think he meant it that way. It just came out the wrong way, and I think he regrets it.
Q: Is there something to that notion that there's a whole lot of pomp and circumstance going on and not as much attention to golf?
A: Well, there's definitely a lot of extracurricular activities that you have to do other than the golf, but that just comes with the territory, and it's an honor to be a part of all that.
Q: On Thursday of Ryder Cup week, captain Paul Azinger hands you a blank lineup card for the week and tells you to fill in the names of your playing partners. Whose name do you write down?
A: Eleven other guys on the team.
Q: C'mon, give me somebody.
A: Well, Phil [Mickelson] and I have talked about playing together, so he's very high on the list. Jim Furyk, a veteran. Boo Weekley and I have become good friends. Really, everybody who has made the team I have become really good friends with before making this team, so it's hard to pick just one.
Q: How about if you could pick your opponents? Any specific European players you'd like to get a chance at playing?
A: You know, I just want to rack up as many points as possible, so whoever's in my way, I'm just going to try to play my best and get the win.
Q: You're being so political. Are you running for office or what?
A: [Laughs] You know what? This is a better way to answer questions!
Q: Earlier this year, there was a report that you hit into Sergio Garcia during a practice round and he wasn't very happy. What's your relationship like with him?
A: Very good. We're good friends. I think some people took it the wrong way, because we were both joking around. We're good friends on and off the course. Obviously, we're going to be on different teams, so we might have to play against each other, but off the course we're good friends.
Q: Some have said you're the next young player -- or maybe the first young player -- who will challenge Tiger Woods for the No. 1 ranking. Is that a premature notion, or do you think you've proven yourself worthy of such praise?
A: It's premature. I mean, I haven't won as many tournaments as I need to win, haven't had as much success as I would have wanted, but at the same time I'm working toward that, and hopefully I can achieve that by the end of the year and keep improving.
Q: With increased expectations, is there increased pressure on you as well?
A: No. I put as much pressure on myself as anyone can put on me. I don't worry about what everyone is saying. If I had, I probably wouldn't have made it out here to begin with.
Q: You talked earlier about the Ryder Cup being a goal. What are some other specific goals you had going into this year as far as win totals, world ranking, things like that?
A: Well, just to be prepared for every event I was playing. I think if I did that, I was going to win a couple of times and if I got a couple of good breaks, win more than multiple times. So I've done that, I've been prepared almost every tournament, and I'm going to try and keep doing that.
Q: You've talked so much about how you have matured as both a player and person in the past year. What was a typical Anthony Kim practice session like in 2007?
A: Lace up the shoes in the locker room and head to the tee. I mean, that's pretty much it. Maybe hit five or 10 putts, but I was on the tee after breakfast.
Q: And how has that changed in 2008?
A: Oh, I'm putting in my time. I've made sure I have a routine. About an hour and a half before, I'm out here stretching and putting and chipping, making sure that I'm ready to go when the ball's in the air.
Q: And you feel like that's been the secret to making you a better player this year?
Q: You've been very candid about wanting to win the FedEx Cup for monetary reasons. I think many of the fans out there already see PGA Tour players as being well-off financially, but $10 million is a lot of money, isn't it?
A: It is. But it's not really just about the money. Tiger is obviously the first one to win the FedEx Cup; I'd like to do something that he's done, because it's nice to follow in the footsteps of greatness. I feel like I'm playing good enough. I have a good opportunity to do so. And, you know, if the money comes, the money comes, and I buy this house that I want.
Q: That can buy a lot of belt buckles, too, huh?
Q: Seriously, though: Did you ever think that would be one of the main topics you'd be talking about every week?
A: No, I didn't, because the belt buckle that I had was worth 40 bucks -- and it's not worth that anymore. So that's the last thing I expected.
Q: Anthony Kim, you are off the ESPN.com Hot Seat.
A: Thank you.
Jason Sobel covers golf for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.
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