In one of the most unexpected events of the entire PGA Tour season, superstar Dustin Johnson shocked the golf world on Thursday by announcing that he was taking an immediate, indefinite leave of absence from the professional tour.
The 30-year-old Johnson had already withdrawn from this week’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and now will miss both the PGA Championship next week at Valhalla, as well as the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles. An eight-time winner so far in his young career, he was nearing the end of one of his best years yet. Prior to announcing his leave, Johnson was ranked fourth in the FedEx Cup points race and 16th in the world. He was expected to be not only a strong contender for the year’s final major, but an important piece of Team USA for the Ryder Cup.
Johnson and his team did issue a short statement on the decision, as follows:
“I am 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. By committing the time and resources necessary to improve my mental health, physical well-being and emotional foundation, I am confident that I will be better equipped to fulfill my potential and become a consistent champion.
I respectfully ask my fans, well-wishers and the media for privacy as I embark upon this mission of self-improvement.”
As is all too often the case in today’s social media world, fans and onlookers instantly took to the Twitter-sphere to speculate on what would cause such a sudden decision with only six weeks left in the season. With no reason given and no apparent injury, that’s to be expected, but clearly whatever “personal challenges” are weighing on him at this point have become too much to bear while maintaining the life of an active Tour pro.
The Tour has stated that they have nothing to add, but that they wish him well and hope he returns soon. Ironically, while that’s the correct position for them to take, that has only fanned the chatter of those who believe there are ulterior motives to his sudden departure.
Golf is a unique sport in that we tend to think we know the players better than we do. We see them every week, up close and with no helmets or other obstructions from view. We’ve watched even in recent years as Phil Mickelson‘s family battled through cancer, and as Tiger Woods‘s personal indiscretions came crashing down upon him in a very public manner. But still, as famous and rich as these players may be, they’re still just people with problems like you and me, and they deserve the space to deal with that as much as we would like ourselves.
Dustin Johnson is a fan favorite, and moreover one of the top young stars in today’s game. He’s good for golf, and whatever may be going on, we’ll leave speculation for others and simply wish him the best in his personal path.