Ian Poulter did not compete directly against Anthony Kim in any match during the 2008 Ryder Cup. Even so, they still managed to bump into each other. Literally.

It happened during the Saturday afternoon fourballs session at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky. Poulter was playing. Kim was not – but he was following the match, cheering on his American teammates from the sidelines.

After hitting a tee shot, Poulter was walking off the tee box and thought Kim deliberately lowered his shoulder and bumped into him. Kim later explained that it was an accident, that he never saw Poulter nor had specific physical intentions.

A day later, Kim opened Sunday Singles with a convincing 5 and 4 win over Sergio Garcia to help the U.S. end Europe’s string of three straight victories. Kim’s performance fueled his reputation as golf’s next big thing.

Four years later, in 2012, he retired after rupturing his Achilles tendon.

Now Kim is back after nearly 12 years, joining LIV Golf this week in Jeddah as a season-long independent Wild Card, competing against 53 other world-class players. One of those is Poulter, co-captain of Majesticks GC.

“The Loch Ness Monster returns,” Poulter said with a smile. “What else can you say? He’s an interesting cat, somebody who was one of the brightest talents in golf. Obviously got everyone talking. As we say, the Loch Ness Monster disappeared, and no one saw him again.

“But I’m pleased for him that he’s put himself into a position where he wants to play. As a talent, he had everything. He had a swagger about him. He was different. He was good for the game. And then he’s gone MIA for 12 years. I think it’s going to cause a lot of media interest globally. We’re all kind of intrigued to see how he plays. I hope he plays nicely.”

The curiosity factor has extended across the entire range this week at Royal Greens Golf and Country Club. The majority of the field have never competed against the 38-year-old Kim at the height of his powers. His fellow Oklahoma Sooner alum Abraham Ancer, five years younger, has never met him.

“Obviously heard a bunch of stories about AK. Watched him on TV while I was in college,” Ancer said. “Never got to play golf with him. Always wanted to, but we never connected. This week will be the first time.”

Oklahoma native Talor Gooch has met Kim – about 20 years ago when Gooch was still a young teenager. Kim was at OU.

“He won’t remember this, but I’m going to remind him when I see him,” Gooch said. “I had a chipping contest with him and won some money off him. He still owes me. I’m going to get that money from him this week.”

The LIV Golf members who did compete against Kim on the professional level recall a player gifted with incredible talent, huge energy and overflowing with charisma. That’s why his re-appearance has captivated the golf world.

Graeme McDowell partnered with Padraig Harrington in a fourball match loss to Kim and Phil Mickelson on the first day in Valhalla in 2008. G-Mac will now get another up-close look at Kim during Friday’s first round as one of his playing partners along with Cameron Smith. The threesome will start their round off the 18th tee at 11:15 a.m. locally (3:15 a.m. ET).

“He’s an enigma that people love,” McDowell said. “It’s like the legend has grown over the last 12 years. I think we’re all excited to see where the game is. Has he still got that fire?

“He was one of those golfers that transcended the sport a little bit. He brought in other fans that were not your conventional golf fans. But he’s a non-conventional golfer. Super-excited. Great dynamic. Excited to see how he does.”

Mickelson said he hasn’t seen his former partner in more than a decade. In addition to their 1-1-1 record in the 2008 Ryder Cup, they also played together to win the opening foursomes match of the 2009 Presidents Cup.

“He’s got a charisma, and you can tell that the world of golf is drawn to him,” Mickelson said. “Not many people have that charisma that he has. To have his swagger and his game back is exciting.”

Kim’s old Singles foe Garcia also saw the kind of firepower Kim can produce.

“He played amazing,” Garcia recalled about 2008. “I didn’t play that great that day. … I don’t know how he’s playing now, but I know the kind of player that he was, the quality that he had. Going to be interesting to see how he comes out here and gets back into tournament mojo.”

As for Poulter … well, he hasn’t forgotten the incident in Valhalla. But no hard feelings now.

“Look, me and him clashed in the Ryder Cup. There was a shoulder-barging incident that happened. Pissed me off at the time. Invaded my space,” Poulter said. “They went on and obviously won that Ryder Cup. So, we’ve had a previous thing. But it’s all good. He’s grown up a bit. He’s got kids. We can look past all that.

“It’s good to see him out here. I don’t think we’ll have another shoulder-barging incident – unless we’re coming up 18 in the lead come Sunday.”

Images: LIV Golf