Rumour mill churns as Johnson comes under further scrutiny
Article from Sports Writer Derek Clements
What a farce. One of the best golfers in the world announces that he is taking indefinite leave from the game, ruling himself out of the Bridgestone Invitational, US PGA championship, the FedEx Cup playoffs and the Ryder Cup. Within hours, speculation is rife that the player in question, Dustin Johnson, has actually been suspended for failing a drugs test.
Worse than that, there are even suggestions that it is the third time he has failed such a test, but this time, allegedly, he has been snorting cocaine.
TaylorMade, his equipment supplier, issued the following anodyne statement on Johnson's behalf: "I am taking a leave of absence from professional golf, effective immediately. I will use this time to seek professional help for personal challenges I have faced. By committing the time and resources necessary to improve my mental health, physical well-being and emotional foundation, I am confident that I will be better equipped to fulfill my potential and become a consistent champion.
"I respectfully ask my fans, well-wishers and the media for privacy as I embark upon this mission of self-improvement."
He issued another statement via USA Today: "I will use this time to seek professional help for personal challenges I have faced. By committing the time and resources necessary to improve my mental health, physical well-being and emotional foundation, I am confident that I will be better equipped to fulfill my potential and become a consistent champion."
The PGA Tour has a bizarre policy of not announcing when disciplinary measures have been taken against a player and initially released a curt statement wishing Johnson well and saying it looked forward to his return. It said there would be no further comment.
Thus, the rumour mill is soon rife with suggestions that Johnson has been suspended for six months, forcing the Tour to issue a statement denying that any such thing has taken place.
In no other sport would such a state of affairs be allowed to develop. There are claims that Johnson failed a test for marijuana in 2009, and two for cocaine, the first in 2012 and again this year. If this is true and the Tour know that it is true, we have a right to know. His fellow players have a right to know, his sponsors have a right to know and the paying public have a right to know.
If Johnson is having problems with drug addiction, he will receive only support and sympathy from the world of golf. Failing to come clean gives the impression that the sport is attempting to brush things under the carpet.
There is also the question about whether he should be allowed to keep prize money and world ranking points garnered during the periods in question. He will also have received bonuses from sponsors.
With one or two notable exceptions within its ranks, golf is a clean-cut sport and his sponsors will be mortified at the prospect that one of the world's best-paid golfers may have been taking recreational drugs on a regular basis.
To make matters worse for Johnson, he has been offered help and support by...John Daly, himself a serial offender, although there has never been any suggestion that Daly has used drugs.
"I texted Dustin a few days ago and told him how much I love him," Daly said. “He's talented ... he's the future of golf. My heart goes out to him. I would love to help but I know how things are and he would have to come to me."
At this moment, most parents would take issue with Daly's assertion that Johnson is the future of golf. Especially if the other rumours are to be believed. It has been claimed that he slept with the wives of two fellow tour professionals, ending the marriage of one of them. The other is allegedly a player who will be a member of Tom Watson's Ryder Cup team in September - a team Johnson had qualified for with something to spare. It is safe to assume that, if true, Watson had no intention of pairing them together in the foursomes or fourballs.
The US team has always seemed to have problems with team bonding, but it seems that Johnson might have taken his own bonding exercise to extremes. What a mess it all is.
Although he has only just turned 30, Johnson has had an extraordinary career thus far. He has won eight times on the PGA Tour and thrown away several opportunities to win majors. He finished fifth in the US PGA championship in 2010 when he was penalised for grounding his club in a hazard at the 72nd hole, causing him to miss out on a playoff. Earlier the same year he took a three-shot lead into the final round of the US Open at Pebble Beach but crashed to an 82 as Graeme McDowell won.
He should have won The Open at Royal St George's in 2011, but in the final round he hit his second shot out of bounds and ran up a seven. Earlier this year he was fourth at the US Open, but was never really in contention.
A huge hitter who attacks every flag, Johnson is a huge crowd-puller. Golf will wish him well, whatever his problems. But it would surely help everybody to know precisely what those problems are.
Derek Clements is a sports journalist with a particular passion for golf with over 12 years of experience covering golf and other sports including Chief Sub-Editor on the sports desk of The Sunday Times. To contact Derek email direct via [email protected]
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