By Marla Ridenour
Beacon Journal sports columnist
Anthony Kim will play his first tournament in three months this week at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, and he might do it without a full 18-hole practice round.
Kim said he would try to go 18 Tuesday afternoon, but more likely it would be nine Tuesday and nine today before he tees off with British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen at 10 a.m. Thursday in the $8.5 million event.
''I'm here to prepare for next week,'' Kim said of the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. ''I've got four days of golf guaranteed, even if I shoot 110.''
Kim, 25, withdrew from the Players Championship on May 4 and the next day underwent surgery on his left thumb, repairing a partially torn ligament that had been bothering him for months. He had managed to win the Houston Open on April 4 and finish third at the Masters Tournament the next weekend with the problem.
He said he has been hitting balls for 12 days and putting one-handed for the last month.
His status in the Bridgestone may not have been assured until Kim saw his doctor Tuesday. He said the three-hour session included an MRI and X-rays ''just to make sure it was stable because I was having a little bit of pain there.''
''Structurally everything is fine,'' Kim said.
''I hit about 10 drivers yesterday and I don't feel like I have the same pop,'' Kim said. ''But it's going straight, which hasn't been the case the whole year. Just to have my thumb attached to my hand has been a plus.''
Kim said his focus is on making the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which will defend its title against the Europeans in Wales in late September. Kim starred on the 2008 squad that upset the Europeans at Valhalla in Louisville, Ky. Ryder Cup qualifying ends after the PGA Championship and Kim is No. 5 in the U.S. standings, which would seem to make his spot relatively secure.
Plenty to toast
Australian Stuart Appleby had a celebration planned for Tuesday night after tying the PGA Tour's single-round scoring record Sunday with a 59 in the final round of the Greenbrier Classic.
The milestone performance helped him record his first victory since 2006, winning by a stroke over Jeff Overton, and earn a spot in the Bridgestone, thanks to the Greenbrier's strength of field. Appleby has played in a PGA Tour event at Firestone every year starting in 1997 when it was the NEC World Series of Golf. (In 2002, the NEC Invitational was held in Sammamish, Wash.)
''It wasn't important for me to get back here, it was important for me to get back into form,'' Appleby said. ''I didn't want to miss here. I'm not sure how I got in, but I got invited, so I'm back.''
Appleby had been in a slump that saw him fail to get into the 2010 Masters, the first missed major of his career. He was also forced to sit out the British Open at St. Andrews.
Never below 55th on the PGA Tour money list since his rookie year, he fell to 137th in 2009. Going into the Greenbrier, his world ranking had plummeted to 159. The victory boosted him to 94th.
''I just had to refocus,'' he said. ''I thought, 'I'm getting pushed out of all the majors. I'm not in all the world events.' I was becoming a regular in those. I wanted to get back to that level of golf, being in the top 30, being in the Tour Championships, and that wasn't in my cards the previous years.
''Maybe in the last couple of months I've seen some proper form come back. It was probably mental, most of it. I had to be more aware of my tension levels. When you start pushing, you get more tense.''
Besides earning his first victory since the 2006 Shell Houston Open and enjoying his record-setting 59, Appleby has another reason to toast. He said it was 10 years ago he met his wife, Ashley, a Canton native and McKinley High School graduate, during Bridgestone week.
Married for eight years, Appleby wouldn't say if they planned to dine at LeFevre's in Cuyahoga Falls, a restaurant now called The River, where they had their first date.
''I don't know. I do whatever my wife says,'' he said, laughing.