After shaking off a little rust from a six-month hiatus, Dustin Johnson is back in the swing of things.
The 30-year-old golf pro made an impressive showing during the 2015 Northern Trust Open last weekend, held at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, California. After an exciting four-round weekend, Johnson gave a relatively unknown James Hahn quite a run for his money through the final stretch, only to be out-putted on No. 14 to close out the tournament.
Still, Dustin Johnson has caught the attention of sports fans and golf junkies with his apparent determination to perform his very best in recent weeks. Many commentators expected lackluster results after a questionable leave of absence, but it’s already obvious that Johnson didn’t let his golf bag gather dust and instead used the time to hone his craft and improve his game.
Let’s check out the latest on Johnson’s mysterious absence and how his fresh start in 2015 is shaping up.
Leave of Absence or Suspension?
When players like Dustin Johnson take off work for six months, people tend to take notice. The winner of eight PGA Tour events, Johnson has been a consistent, steady presence on the professional golf scene, earning a reputation as one of golf’s most promising new greats while raking in over $25 million in prize money in the process.
Then came a surprising announcement in August of last year, when Johnson stated that he was taking a leave of absence from professional golf, citing the need to, “seek help for professional challenges.” No one was really sure what that meant, but plenty of people close to the game were quick to speculate.
According to a source providing information for Golf.com, Dustin Johnson was in fact serving a six-month suspension as a result of testing positive for cocaine during a drug screening last year. This was supposedly the third failed drug test ranging from the first in 2009 to the latest coming prior to his suspension.
The mystery behind the supposed suspension, however, involves the reticent tone that both Johnson and the PGA have taken in regards to the six-month absence. Johnson has since stated that he took time off to get himself prepared both mentally and physically, while the PGA Tour refuses to confirm allegations of drug use.
It didn’t get better for Dustin. While serving that “suspension” in early November 2014, a story came out stating that Johnson was reportedly scammed out of $3 million by his former caddy Nathan Hardwick. There is no news on that front, but that’s not the sort of distraction you need while dealing with other issues.
Regardless of the reasons behind Johnson’s leave, he certainly used his time wisely, getting in some serious practice while breaking Tiger Woods’ old course record at Sherwood Country Club twice. It appears now, more than ever, Dustin Johnson is ready to take the 2015 PGA Tour by storm.
A Fresh Start
Dustin Johnson returned to the 2015 PGA Tour scene refreshed, smiling and ready to play some serious golf. His first appearance came at the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego in early February. Although Johnson ended up missing the tournament cut by a single stroke, it was still a decent showing for the professional’s first tournament after such a long absence from the game.
If Dustin Johnson had any cobwebs to dust off his TaylorMade clubs, he certainly took care of them at Torrey Pines, because the next weekend presented a substantial level of improvement from Johnson during his appearance at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, playing alongside professional ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. It was here that Dustin logged a tied-for-fourth finish at 17-under for the event, a notable improvement from the week prior.
Then came last week’s Northern Trust Open, where Johnson was looking to secure his first tournament win post-return, only to have the victory rug yanked out from beneath his feet on the second playoff hole by a surprising yet formidable new personality in professional golf, James Hahn.
It’s yet to be seen if Dustin Johnson is mentally and physically ready to take the PGA Tour by storm. His performances in the past three weeks have been promising, to say the least. But as of this writing, he is struggling at The Honda Classic, and needs some magic to make the cut. Even if the Honda isn’t meant to be, it’s probably safe to say that we aren’t the only ones that look forward to watching some incredible golf coming from this promising young pro.