Golf is a game of unwritten rules.
Tend the pin. Don’t let your shadow get in the way of someone else’s putt. Don’t sandbag. And never start your cart engine while another player is swinging. After this most recent episode involving Dustin Johnson, golf might want to put “keeping your mitts off of other player’s wives” a little higher on that list.
Last Monday, Dustin Johnson announced that he was withdrawing from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, citing “personal reasons.” Then, three days later, Johnson announced that his absence would span several months, due to “personal challenges.”
Those “challenges” were a mystery to many, until a Golf.com report on Friday claimed that the PGA suspended Johnson six months for multiple failed drug tests. Allegedly, Johnson was pinched for marijuana in 2009, as well as twice for cocaine–once in 2012 and again in 2014.
The report also claimed that Johnson “had a sexual indiscretion with at least one wife of a PGA Tour player.”
In a tweet posted after the Golf.com report, Fox Golf analyst Robert Lusetich backed up that report:
Not a huge secret either that #DustinJohnson had affairs with 2 wives of PGA Tour players. One broke up the marriage.
— Robert Lusetich (@RobertLusetich) August 1, 2014
The PGA, an organization that offends Lois Lerner in its lack of transparency, broke with its normal “don’t say/don’t tell” philosophy regarding disciplinary measures to make 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.”
Now, it’s important to note that the PGA is under no legal obligation to make public any information having to do with their drug testing policy. The upshot of this is that if the PGA keeps these kinds of things under wraps, then the player and his agent can spin the suspension, er, “leave of absence,” to make it look like whatever they want it to look like. This way the PGA farms out its PR duties to the player and agent while getting to maintain the “nothing to see here” policy that is their trademark.
Now, this kind of PR strategy worked brilliantly for the PGA during the pre-Twitter era. I’m not so sure it works in the age of intense 24-hour investigative reporting, and social media, in which the dirty laundry of a sport is aired, sometimes before the sport is even aware that it has the dirty laundry.
I wasn’t sure there would ever be a golfer that could actually make what Tiger Woods did look slightly less awful by comparison. Yet, if the reports about Dustin Johnson are true, he might have actually pulled that off. Now, to be clear, Tiger cheated on his wife and kids by running around with a bunch of women. That’s all true, and that’s awful. No way around that.
But Dustin Johnson didn’t merely cheat on his bikini-model level hot fiancée, Paulina Gretzky, he allegedly cheated on her with the wives of other players on the tour. Say what you will about Tiger Woods, but he confined his “extra maritals” to women who were in no way connected with people he worked with and saw on a daily basis. Dustin Johnson, allegedly, went after the wives of guys that he looked in the eye every single day on the tour. And in at least one case that kind of treachery allegedly led to the break-up of a marriage. That takes a special kind of creep. At least Tiger had the courtesy to only break-up his own marriage.
Golf is a game of trust. That sounds quaint in this age of cynicism and moral depravity. It is nonetheless true. It’s the only sport where you referee yourself. If you have a guy on the tour that’s stupid enough to not only cheat on his insanely hot fiancée, but to do it with the wives of other players, how do you trust that guy on the course? Or anywhere else for that matter?
Nor are those Johnson’s only indiscretions, as Robert Wilde has pointed out on this site:
At the age of 16 Johnson was involved in a burglary with four others during which a gun was stolen. The [Daily] Mail reports that Johnson later used an illegal ID to buy bullets for that same gun, which was used in a shooting by Steve Gillian, his accomplice’s brother. Gillian was later convicted of murder for shooting Jason Ward several times in the head and is serving a life sentence. Meanwhile, Johnson had to pay restitution for the stolen bullets and had to testify in the trial. Johnson was later pardoned for the incident
Again, we all make mistakes and I’m not sure when the statute of limitations for forgiveness of past errors runs out. That being said, the preponderance of evidence clearly indicates that Dustin Johnson is a bad dude, playing the sport that prides itself on being the game of gentlemen. I’m not saying that Johnson should be banned for life. After allegedly running afoul of the PGA’s drug policy, aggressively pursuing the wives of fellow PGA members, and breaking up at least one marriage, maybe the PGA could at least officially suspend him.