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Houston champion Kim overcomes mental and physical obstacles

Anthony Kim will have surgery on his injured thumb following this week's Masters tournament at Augusta.
Anthony Kim will have surgery on his injured thumb following this week's Masters tournament at Augusta.
  • Anthony Kim wins his first PGA Tour title in two years in playoff at Houston Open
  • American defeats compatriot Vaughn Taylor despite playing with a torn thumb ligament
  • Kim says he is a changed man after admitting he had a bad attitude last year
  • The 24-year-old will have surgery on injured hand after this week's Masters at Augusta

(CNN) -- U.S. Ryder Cup hero Anthony Kim revealed that he is a changed golfer after winning his first PGA Tour title in two years despite playing with a torn thumb ligament.

The 24-year-old blew a three-shot lead with nine holes to play before defeating compatriot Vaughn Taylor in a play-off at the Houston Open on Sunday.

Kim came to prominence with two victories in 2008 and helped the United States win the Ryder Cup from Europe, but his often petulant behavior on course the following year raised the ire of his fellow professionals, culminating in row with Australian Robert Allenby.

Allenby accused Kim of staying out late partying the night before their singles match in the President's Cup teams event, but later apologized.

Last year I was complaining about everything. I felt I deserved to win without trying. That's not how it is
--Anthony Kim
  • Anthony Kim
  • Phil Mickelson
  • Lee Westwood
  • PGA Tour
  • Golf

Kim, who told the PGA Tour Web site that he will have surgery on his injured hand after this week's Masters -- golf's first major tournament of the season -- said he was now much more mature.

"I look back at last year... I was just complaining about everything. I felt like I deserved to win without trying. That's not how it is. I've put in a lot of hard work," he told

"There's no reason to pout about a bad shot. Especially the way the economy is right now and a lot of people are struggling. I don't want to kick sand in their face by having a bad attitude out there.

"I worked hard in '08, but to get back here was way harder. I had lost a lot of confidence."

The Redstone course in Texas was set up to simulate the difficult conditions that players will face at Augusta this week, giving Kim hope of a good showing despite his hand impediment.

"This is definitely the hardest and most patient I've ever been," he told reporters after winning. "This is the hardest position I've been in in a golf tournament.

"I think I've seen every bush or tree or hazard. We were in about seven or eight hazards the first three days. Now, I played out of a couple of them, but that's a lot of red lines we're seeing by my golf ball.

"So I feel like this is a culmination of hard work, and the people around me have pushed me along. I feel so grateful that I've got a great team around me to make sure that I keep my head screwed on straight."

The 34-year-old Taylor, whose only PGA Tour titles came in the lower-profile Reno-Tahoe Open in 2004 and 2005, lost on the first hole of the play-off as he hit two bunkers and bogeyed while Kim two-putted from 30 feet for par.

Kim, the join third-round leader with Bryce Molder, could have secured victory in the regulation 72 holes but missed a five-foot putt to bogey the last and sign for a two-under-par 70 to be 12-under 276.

Taylor climbed the leaderboard with 68, while South Africa's Charl Schwartzel (67) and Canadian Graham Delaet (68) tied for third on 277.

World No. 4 Lee Westwood was tied for eighth on 280 after 71 in a group also including Molder, who faded with 74.

World No. 3 Phil Mickelson, a two-time Masters champion, was well off the pace on 286 after an up-and-down 71 left him tied for 35th. The American carded three double-bogeys in his first 10 holes, then fired six birdies in a row.

Irishman Padraig Harrington, a three-time major winner, was another shot back after a disastrous 77 that included four bogeys and two doubles.

South African veteran Ernie Els failed to win his third successive tournament, but finished on a bright note with a five-birdie 69 after recovering from an early double-bogey to finish tied for 44th on 288.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's Yani Tseng won the first women's major of the year, the Kraft Nabisco Championship, by one shot from Norway's Suzann Pettersen in Riverside County, California on Sunday.

The 21-year-old secured her third win on the LPGA Tour and her second major triumph after carding a final-round four-under-par 68 to finish on 27, while Pettersen closed with 69.

Korea's Song-Hee Kim was third on 279 after a 70, while world No. 1 Lorena Ochoa of Mexico was fourth on 282 following a final 73.

Third-round leader Karen Stupples of Britain slumped to a tie for fifth on 285 after a woeful 78 that featured two bogeys and three doubles.