JOE BIDDLE: PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson leaves golf to get help

JOE BIDDLE: PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson leaves golf to get help (Image 1)
JOE BIDDLE: PGA Tour star Dustin Johnson leaves golf to get help (Image 1)

Dustin Johnson is blessed with a golf swing and game that puts him in an elite class of the sport.

At 6-4, 207 pounds, his game is about strength, but he also possesses a winning short game.

Johnson is blessed with a talent few can match on the golf course. He is long off the tee, physically strong enough to endure the rigors of playing on the PGA Tour.

He shocked the golf world recently when he announced he was voluntarily leaving the sport to work out personal problems.

Headlines have now surfaced, claiming Johnson had previously failed two drug tests for cocaine and a previous test for marijuana. The PGA does not announce failed drug tests, leaving golfers and media in the dark as to Johnson’s status and how serious his off the course problems are. They adamantly stated Thursday the PGA Tour had not suspended Johnson, that he left on his own.

Johnson has not confirmed, nor denied, the stories that have gone viral on a variety of media outlets.

The news swept through the locker room at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational tournament held this week at Firestone South in Akron, Ohio.

“Dustin Johnson is one of my best friends out here,’’ said Rickie Fowler. “I’m just hoping for the best for him. … Hopefully he can get everything straightened out.’’

Zach Johnson, no kin, is another friend who felt bad for Dustin Johnson.

“Extremely unfortunate,’’ Johnson said. “I feel for him. I feel for his family.

“I just hope this is the start of something really, really positive.’’

Dustin Johnson has been a star since he left Coastal Carolina University and started playing a full schedule on the PGA Tour. He has won at least one tournament every year since 2008. This year he was ranked No. 4 on the money list with $4.29 million before leaving this week. Johnson has won more than $24 million during his career and was currently ranked No. 16 on the world golf rankings.

Only Dustin Johnson knows what his demons are. The fact he is seeking help is a positive.

He said in a statement he was seeking professional help for “personal challenges I have faced.’’

He went on to say he needs to improve his mental health, physical well being and emotional foundation during what he called a “mission of self-improvement.’’

Professional golf is not a team sport. You show up, play and collect what you earn during four days of 18-hole rounds. You call in sick and withdraw from a tournament you don’t get paid for that week. You don’t get paid vacations. You incur an injury and are out for weeks, you don’t get paid. You buy your own insurance. There is no pension for retirement.

Still, golf is considered by most fans to be a glamorous profession. The perks are enviable.

Johnson is currently engaged to Paulina Gretzky, daughter of National Hockey League’s Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky. The model is known for her reputation as a party girl. Was Dustin Johnson drawn into circles that put him in over his head? Drug usage can go from recreational to dependency without the user admitting it.

For the most part, professional golf at the PGA and LPGA levels, have dodged rampant drug usage that plagues other professional sports. In 2008, the PGA Tour announced it was instituting a random drug testing policy. It went into effect July 1 of that year. The European Tour and LPGA have followed suit.

Dustin Johnson has taken a bold first step. If indeed he has an addiction, there is no overnight cure.

Contact wkrn.com Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at joebiddle11@gmail.com.

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