BETHESDA, Md. — Anthony Kim is regaining a lot of his strength and a little of his swagger. He can only hope his record start Thursday at the AT&T National will allow him to get rid of some frustration built up from a year of not winning.
Kim ran off eight birdies over his final 13 holes and set the course record at Congressional with an 8-under 62, giving him a two-shot lead over tournament host Tiger Woods and two others.
The 24-year-old Kim hasn’t won since his victory in the AT&T National last year, slowed by an assortment of injuries that caused his game to slip just as he was being anointed the next great American player.
It was the best round of his PGA Tour career, although Kim walked off the par-5 ninth green slightly perturbed after narrowly missing a 10-foot birdie putt. Apparently, eight birdies wasn’t enough.
“You don’t have many opportunities to bust a 61,” Kim said.
But it was enough to hold off Woods, who missed his tournament last year after having season-ending knee surgery. Woods played in the afternoon with deceptive wind swirling from trees lining the fairways.
He missed only two fairways and three greens, and made enough putts for a 64, his lowest round since the 2007 Tour Championship.
“Today was nice to get back inside the ropes and get out there and try to catch AK,” Woods said. “He lit it up this morning.”
Bryce Molder, who can qualify for the British Open with a strong week at Congressional, hit a 3-wood to four feet on the par-3 second hole and escaped trouble a few times on the back nine to join a group at 64 that also included D.A. Points.
Former PGA champion Steve Elkington was another shot back on a day of exceptional scoring in relatively soft conditions from overnight rain in the Washington area.
U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover had a 69, an otherwise good start except when the leader already is in the clubhouse at 62.
“Whenever you can make a bunch of birdies and not bogeys to follow it up, it’s going to be a good day,” Kim said. “And fortunately, I kept the ball in play for most of the day and finally got some putts to fall this year.”
There are two Canadians in the field, both from Bright’s Grove, Ont.
Mike Weir and amateur Matt Hill both carded 71’s to share part of a multi-player tie for 58th.
Kim extended his bogey-free streak at Congressional to 40 holes, dating to the third round a year ago. He missed only one green, coming up just short on the 18th and chipping to about three feet.
The longest par putt he faced all day was from four feet.
Even though it’s the first week of July, it already feels like a long year to Kim.
He has not finished in the Top 10 since his runner-up finish in the season-opening tournament at Kapalua, as he travelled the world while coping with injuries, the latest to his left thumb.
He had to regrip the club on his backswing, making him tentative.
But as the strength returned, Kim has been able to set the club properly and swing more explosively through the ball.