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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Sorting Out the DJ Rumors

I'd much rather write about Sergio's 61 at Bridgestone (it was AWESOME!) but this story is becoming too big to ignore. So here goes...

There's a firestorm raging around Thursday's announcement of Dustin Johnson's "indefinite leave" from golf. No doubt you've heard all the rumors that began swirling Friday afternoon, so I spent most of the afternoon trying to verify them and put names and dates to as many of them as I can. You can make your own decisions from there.

Dustin Johnson

The first one to hit was that DJ is actually serving a 6-month suspension for cocaine use. That apparently started with this golf.com article posted Friday, just after noon. (The photo came from that article as well.) The source, as you might expect, is unnamed but told them that this is DJ's 3rd failed drug test:
  1. one for marijuana in 2009
  2. one for cocaine in 2012 (3-month suspension)
  3. and this one (6-month suspension)
The 2012 suspension was supposedly covered up by the story about him hurting his back lifting a jetski. (Remember that?) According to the article, "Under the PGA Tour’s drug-testing policies, the Tour is not required to announce any disciplinary actions against players who test positive for recreational drugs."

In this December 2013 interview with GC's Jason Sobel DJ denied any drug use. But this NY Post article indicated that most Tour players weren't surprised by this newest violation:
For some around the game and who know Johnson, the news did not come as a shock.

"It’s one of the least-kept secrets on Tour how much [Johnson] likes to party," one PGA Tour source told The Post.

"He’s always lived fast," another Tour source told The Post. "Maybe he realizes now it’s time to slow down."

A former golf teammate of Johnson’s at Coastal Carolina, who requested anonymity, said he has not spoken to Johnson in a few years but painted a picture to The Post of Johnson as "wild" in college, recalling Johnson "went at it so hard at parties that no one could keep up with him."
NESN posted an article with several tweets from FOX Sports golf writer Robert Lusetich. About this latest failed drug test he tweeted:

Lusetich tweet about drug test

But the newshounds were only getting started. As you might expect, the UK sites had a blast with this and the Daily Mail site posted this article which added the following:
In 2001, a then 16-year-old Johnson and four other teenagers were involved in a burglary during which one of them took a gun.

Johnson was later bullied into using fake ID to buy bullets for the gun at Wal-Mart by a friend's menacing older brother Steve Gillian.

Later that month Gillian was charged with murder after shooting a man named Jason Ward multiple times in the head. Gillian was convicted of murder and received a life sentence.

Johnson had to pay restitution for the burglary and to testify at the trial. In 2009 he was pardoned by the state of South Carolina.
This is apparently true. Dustin himself referred to this in a 2010 interview with Golf Magazine. He didn't go into great detail, but the forced purchase of bullets is discussed.

The golf.com article also claimed that DJ "is also known to have had a sexual indiscretion with at least one wife of a PGA Tour player." FOX Sports golf writer Robert Lusetich says that it was actually 2 PGA Tour wives:

Lusetich tweet about indiscretions

If you read any of the articles, you'll also find references to a Butch Harmon interview where Butch says he and Dustin had "a come-to-Jesus conversation about getting his personal life in order." That came from this 2011 interview with SI reporter Alan Shipnuck. (I need to thank Stephanie Wei for that link. Thanks, Steph!) So it appears that DJ has been struggling with a variety of issues for quite a while.

But that wasn't the end of the story. About two-and-a-half hours after the initial golf.com article, cbssports.com ran a statement from the PGA Tour that simply said:
"With regard to media reports that Dustin Johnson has been suspended by the PGA Tour, this is to clarify that Mr. Johnson has taken a voluntary leave of absence and is not under a suspension by the PGA Tour."
A few hours later Steve DiMeglio at usatoday.com posted a similar report that was blunt. In his words:
On Friday, Golf.com reported that Johnson had been suspended for six months. A few hours later, the PGA Tour said the report was wrong.
So just what IS the truth here? Assuming that the reports of the failed drug test are true, it's entirely possible that DJ and the Tour negotiated a mutually beneficial agreement. After all, Dustin is a very popular player among fans; a "black eye" like this doesn't do him or the Tour any good at all. Given Lusetich's tweet about DJ's shock at having failed the drug test, the Tour may have agreed to forego a suspension if DJ agreed to seek help on his own. Don't forget, Dustin has Wayne Gretzky in his corner. If the Great One got involved and agreed to help him get help -- DJ is marrying his daughter, after all -- that may have been enough of a guarantee for the Tour to consider a less drastic compromise.

Likewise, missing the Ryder Cup indicates that at least two months of rehab is planned... or perhaps that too is part of an agreement, a "penalty" for misbehavior that will certainly remain in DJ's memory for a long time. Few things stick in a player's craw like the feeling that he let his team down, and it's hard to believe that DJ could feel any other way right now.

I have trouble believing the PGA Tour would issue a false statement about this, so it sounds to me as if some kind of agreement between the two parties was reached. But if I'm wrong and DJ has indeed been suspended for 6 months, it means we won't see him again until the end of January... which also means he won't be defending his title at the WGC in China this November.

Of course, depending on how long his rehab takes, he might miss it anyway. We'll just have to wait and see what happens.

This is the kind of stuff I hate to write about. Let's just wish DJ a speedy recovery and a speedy return to the game.

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