By CHARLES ODUM
ATLANTA – Anthony Kim felt as if he were playing from behind even before he began Saturday’s third round of the Tour Championship.
Kim glanced at the Saturday tee times when leaving the clubhouse on Friday and thought he saw the last group would tee off at 11:55 a.m. As the second-round leader, he knew he was in the last group.
Kim missed one number. His last group was to tee off at 11:25 a.m., not 11:55 a.m.. That realization came too late Saturday for Kim to go through his usual practice routine.
“I was hanging out in the locker room, talking to the locker room guys and I noticed there was nobody else around,” Kim said, managing a smile. “We were having a good time and they’re like ‘Well, you’ve got about 30 minutes to go, or 25 minutes.’ … I had no idea what time it was.”
It was an embarrassing lesson for the 23-year-old Kim, who shot a 72 to fall into a second-place tie with Phil Mickelson, three strokes behind Sergio Garcia.
“Obviously I need to be a little bit more focused on the golf course when I get here and start planning my practice routine before I go tee it up,” Kim said.
Kim refused to blame his wild round on his rush to make his tee time.
“My swing was terrible whether I sat out there for an hour or eight hours,” he said.
He hit a tee shot on No. 9 that hit a spectator, 48-year-old David Whitfield of Atlanta, opening an ugly cut that caused Whitfield to be taken off the course on a stretcher.
“I thought I killed him,” Kim said.
“It was an awful feeling to look down and see a golf ball-sized impression in his forehead and it’s cut open. It was probably the nastiest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Tournament executive director Todd Rhinehart said Whitfield was released from a local hospital after a negative CT scan.
Luckily, no spectators were perched atop the tent where Kim hit his second shot on No. 16, leading to his third bogey. Kim managed only one birdie.
VOLUNTEER DUTY FOR BLANK: Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, an honorary member at the East Lake Golf Club, served as the announcer on the 18th green.
Blank, wearing a coat and tie, held a microphone and stood at the edge of the green when introducing each pairing.
“He called and said he wanted to volunteer,” Rhinehart said.
Rhinehart said his committee works closely with the Falcons each year so the Falcons, who play at Carolina on Sunday, have a road game the week of the tournament. Blank will be with the Falcons on Sunday.
BLACKOUT AT EAST LAKE: Former University of Georgia golfers Bubba Watson and Ryuji Imada each wore black to support the Georgia football “blackout” for its nationally televised home game in nearby Athens on Saturday night. Georgia coach Mark Richt announced at the start of the week his players would wear black jerseys and he asked fans to dress in black for the game.
Imada and Watson were cheering from the golf course.
“I’ve got to support the Georgia colors,” Imada said. “It’s no coincidence I’m wearing black today.”
Imada’s visor, shirt, pants and shoes were black. He completed the Georgia look with a red belt.
“I’m the real true Dog,” Imada said with a laugh as he looked at Watson’s black shirt with tan pants.
Imada and Watson were not the only players excited about the big game. Mickelson also said he was going to the game.
“I think it’ll be interesting, two of the best teams in college football going at it,” Mickelson said.
Mickelson also wore a black shirt, but he had no idea about the Richt-led blackout.
“Yeah, I just wear black for other reasons,” he said with a laugh.
Imada won the AT&T Classic at Atlanta’s TPC Sugarloaf for his first PGA victory this year. That win earned him his first trip to another in-state tournament – next year’s Masters in Augusta.
Watson, who recently completed his degree requirements at Georgia, is carrying a new red Georgia bulldog head cover in his bag.
“For me to tell the kids to go to school, I had to do something to back it up,” he said.
REBOUND FOR PERRY: Kenny Perry found his focus and his stroke.
On Friday Perry, suffering a post-Ryder Cup letdown, proclaimed “I have no focus. I don’t even care” following his 75 to finish two days at 11-over 251. He rebounded on Saturday with a 67, which tied Robert Allenby and Garcia for the low round of the day.
Perry began the day 29th in the field of 30 but moved up the list of leaders with his 3-under round, which included a 32 on the front 9.
HIS NAME IS MUDD: Garcia is trying to become the first player to win the Tour Championship and The Players Championship in the same year since Jodie Mudd in 1990.
For the 28-year-old Garcia, 1990 is a long time ago.
When asked if he knows the name Jodie Mudd, Garcia asked “Who the hell is Jodie Mudd?”
When told about Mudd’s claim to fame, Garcia said “Sorry, Jodie.”
Mudd, from Georgia Southern and Louisville, Ky., was fifth on the money list in 1990. He played his last season on Tour in 1996.
SHORT PUTTS: The last three third-round leaders have won the Tour Championship: Bart Bryant, a co-leader after three rounds in 2005; Adam Scott, who shared the third-round lead in 2006; and Tiger Woods last year. … If tournament history holds true, only Kim and Mickelson have a chance of catching Garcia. No player has rallied from a deficit larger than four strokes, a feat accomplished by Retief Goosen in 2004.