DJ's past in spotlight with reported suspension

By Jason SobelAugust 1, 2014, 10:45 pm

AKRON, Ohio – When one caddie here at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational received news of Dustin Johnson’s purported self-imposed leave of absence for the remainder of the PGA Tour season, he crowed, “What, did he hurt himself lifting another Jet Ski?”

That response was a not-so-thinly-veiled reference to Johnson missing three months of the 2012 season, which he explained away at the time as a back injury after that theoretical dockside incident.

It underscores a bigger relative story.

Amongst golf’s inner circle, Johnson’s transgressions are hardly secretive.

Now those outside of that circle are learning this, too.

A report from Golf.com on Friday cited an unnamed source with the news that Johnson’s latest leave of absence is not self-imposed, but a six-month suspension from the PGA Tour after a positive test for cocaine – the third positive drug test he’s sustained since turning professional.

According to the report, Johnson’s first strike occurred in 2009, when he wasn’t penalized with a suspension; his second in 2012, covered up by the Jet Ski tale; and a third that came to fruition this week, ostensibly keeping him out of action until late-January of next year.

Hours after it was released, the PGA Tour issued a statement denying the initial report. “This is to clarify,” it read, “that Mr. Johnson has taken a voluntary leave of absence and is not under a suspension from the PGA Tour.”

Suspension or not, it’s clear that he is undergoing “personal struggles,” as his management team termed it in a statement.

It should hardly come as a surprise that Johnson has denied all previous violations. When I asked him in December if he’d ever been punished or reprimanded by the PGA Tour, he said flatly, “No.”

The latest news may have been nothing more than an inevitability, as Johnson’s timeline of personal behavior pointed toward a downward spiral since his Myrtle Beach, S.C., formative years.


Report: Johnson suspended six months for third failed drug test

PGA Tour: D. Johnson 'not under a suspension'


When he was 16, according to a Golf.com report from 2011, Johnson was coerced by a friend’s older brother into buying bullets for a gun that had been stolen in a robbery. That man later used it in a murder and while Johnson was pardoned, the incident still left an imprint.

“I sat down with myself afterward, looked in the mirror and realized, ‘This is not who I am, not what I want to be,’” he told the website. “I wanted to go to college. I wanted to play golf. It was an easy decision, getting back on the right path. I didn't want to throw all this good stuff away.”

In 2009, his second full season on the PGA Tour, Johnson was arrested for driving under the influence. A dashboard video from the arresting officer’s patrol car shows Johnson unable to walk a straight line or listen to the officer’s instructions.

Each of these incidents helps paint a picture of a profoundly talented young golfer who has clearly led a troubled past.

In fact, it can be argued that the only thing more surprising than Johnson’s checkered history is that throughout all of it he has remained one of the PGA Tour’s brightest young stars, winning at least one event in every season since becoming a full-time member in 2008.

Other recent examples show that Johnson is golf’s answer to Teflon.

At last year’s season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he was followed around by social media starlet and notorious socialite Paulina Gretzky, daughter of former hockey star Wayne Gretzky. Proving the buzz surrounding their relationship wasn’t a distraction, he denied even knowing her while going on to win the tournament.

Later in the year, Johnson fired longtime caddie Bobby Brown, replacing him with his brother, Austin, who had limited previous experience caddying at the professional level. In his second event on the bag, Johnson prevailed at the WGC-HSBC Champions tournament in China.

Through it all, the eight career victories and the nearly $25 million in total earnings, Johnson has put himself through a maelstrom of these “personal struggles.”

As other players at this week’s PGA Tour event are asked about their troubled peer, they will use words like worried, saddened and hopeful.

The one word, though, that we won’t hear anyone in golf’s inner circle use to describe this latest surrounding Johnson? Surprised.

Getty Images

Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test

By Will GrayDecember 12, 2017, 11:30 pm

One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.

Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.

"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."

Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.

"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.

Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.

"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."

Getty Images

Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 4:12 pm

Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.

Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.

“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”

The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.

“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.  

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 1:00 pm

This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.

The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.

Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.

The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.


Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year


A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.

And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.

The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.


Masters victory


Article: Garcia defeats Rose to win Masters playoff

Article: Finally at peace: Garcia makes major breakthrough

Article: Garcia redeems career, creates new narrative


Video: See the putt that made Sergio a major champ


Green jacket tour

Article: Take a look at Sergio's crazy, hectic media tour

Article: Garcia with fiancée, green jacket at Wimbledon

Article: Watch: Garcia kicks off El Clasico in green jacket


Man of the people


Article: SERGIO! Garcia finally gets patrons on his side

Article: Fan finally caddies for Sergio after asking 206 times

Article: Sergio donates money for Texas flood relief


Article: Connelly, Garcia paired years after photo together


Ace at 17th at Sawgrass


Growing family

Article: Sergio, Angela get married; Kenny G plays reception

Article: Garcia, wife expecting first child in March 2018


Departure from TaylorMade


Article: Masters champ Garcia splits with TaylorMade


Squashed beef with Paddy

Article: Harrington: Garcia was a 'sore loser'

Article: Sergio, Padraig had 'great talk,' are 'fine'


Victory at Valderrama


Article: Garcia gets first win since Masters at Valderrama

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 12, 2017, 12:30 pm