At 2:39 p.m. (ET) on Thursday, less than an hour after Golf.com reported that Dustin Johnson had been suspended for six months following a third failed drug test, the PGA Tour declined a request from GolfChannel.com for comment, holding to its longstanding policy on player matters.
About three hours later, the circuit reversed course and issued the following statement, “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 from the PGA Tour.”
On Saturday, the Tour confirmed to Jacksonville.com that its policy not to comment on player disciplinary action remains in place.
“We reserve the right to correct misinformation or reports that are inaccurate,” said Ty Votaw, the Tour’s executive vice president of communication. “That is what we did. The policy hasn’t changed.”
Citing an unnamed source, the Golf.com report said Johnson has failed three drug tests, first in 2009 for marijuana and again in 2012 and this year for cocaine. In the Jacksonville.com report, Votaw declined to say whether Johnson had tested positive three times or whether he had been suspended in the past.
On Thursday Johnson announced that he was “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,” Johnson said in a statement issued by his management company.
This is not the first time the Tour has broken with its policy to not comment on personal matters.
In January 2009, John Daly was suspended for alcohol-related issues, a move the Tour initially declined to talk about it.
Daly, however, told the Associated Press he was serving a six-month suspension for “conduct unbecoming a professional” and commissioner Tim Finchem later conceded on Golf Channel, “We aren’t going to dispute what he said, but we aren’t, as a policy, going to comment on disciplinary matters in any details. There’s no reason for me to comment on Daly’s comments because he made comments that were accurate.”
In a similar situation in 2010 Matt Every confirmed he had been suspended for three months for conduct unbecoming after being arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance (marijuana).
At that time Votaw told Golfweek, “We don’t comment on suspensions.”