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 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 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.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.