Anthony Kim saves his par on the 18th green to...

Anthony Kim saves his par on the 18th green to finish at 12-under par during the final round of the Masters. (April 11, 2010) Credit: MCT/Curtis Compton

AUGUSTA, Ga. - Anthony Kim needed a reassessment. "I looked back,'' he said of last year, "and last season, I was just complaining about everything. I felt I deserved to win, but that's not how it is.''

That's how it was. Now Kim, with a new attitude - or so he says - is approaching the heights predicted for him.

A week ago, he won the Shell Houston Open. Sunday, with a closing 65, he finished third in the Masters, four shots behind Phil Mickelson and one behind Lee Westwood.

"I hung in there without my best stuff,'' Kim said, "and I made some putts."

For two years, Kim, the 24-year-old from Southern California, had been labeled the next player to challenge Tiger Woods. But there were injuries and excuses, the latter a result of a tough childhood with a father who demanded perfection.

Suddenly, he's grown up. He stopped partying and started practicing. He learned to control a temper that caused him to get into arguments with his former golf coach at the University of Oklahoma.

"I'm comfortable with who I am out there,'' Kim said. "I've found a new identity.''

That identity and patience enabled him to produce a torrid four-hole stretch starting at the 13th, going birdie, birdie, eagle, birdie. He had two other birdies and one bogey.

"It was a very good round,'' said Kim, who started the day tied for ninth, six shots behind leader Westwood. "I just waited for something to happen. I knew I was going to make some putts out there, and so starting at 13 got the ball rolling and had only six putts in from there.''

Kim has been bothered by a torn ligament in his left thumb that might require surgery, although he is seeking an alternate method of healing.

"It's been about 15, 16 months,'' Kim said of the injury. "It's not going away. Surgery is the last resort, but it's affecting my swing, and I don't want to get into bad habits. We are trying to figure something out.''

Overnight, he figured out a great deal about his game.

"I was very frustrated Saturday, just because I felt like I'm doing the right things and I still can't find a fairway,'' he said, "so I was happy to get in at 1 over par [Saturday].

"Last night, my coach and I looked at some film. We went to a gym and threw med balls instead of hitting golf balls. I just aimed right and hoped it would hook.''

Kim has emerged as one of the tour's more appealing personalities. He's got as much in common with the hip-hop generation as he does the well-heeled golf set. He was a hit with the U.S. fans at the Ryder Cup in 2008.

Kim wears ostentatious belt buckles, usually with rhinestones surrounding the letters "AK". And his name is likely to be in lights for years to come.

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