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PGA Golf

Dustin Johnson taking leave of absence ‘to seek professional help’


Dustin Johnson, the 30-year-old budding superstar and eight-time PGA Tour winner, is taking an indefinite leave of absence from professional golf, effective immediately, according to a statement issued by the golfer through Hambric Sports Management.

Johnson’s statement, which was released on Thursday afternoon:

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.

It is unknown at this time exactly what the “personal challenges” Johnson referenced in his statement entail. Whatever the case and the associated issues involved that precipitated Johnson deciding he needed to take a leave of absence, it appears that Johnson will be absent from the Tour for an extended period of time. His agent, David Winkle, reportedly told the PGA of America that Johnson won’t compete in the PGA Championship next week at Valhalla, nor will he be at the Ryder Cup in September, where he was likely an automatic qualifier given his No. 5 world ranking.

Johnson withdrew from this week’s Bridgestone Invitational on Monday, citing personal reasons. Some speculation ensued —including from this site — following the announcement that it his withdrawal somehow involved spending time with his fiancĂ©e, Paulina Gretzky, given that she posted and then pulled down a photo following his withdrawal showing her practicing her putting stroke on a green with Johnson nearby. It now appears that Gretzky may have taken down the photo to protect her fiancĂ©’s health and long-term well-being than protecting his reputation on the Tour.

Most of his colleagues on Tour heard about the leave of absence after they completed play in the first round at the Bridgestone Invitational.

Jason Dufner seemed taken aback by the news when reacting to Johnson’s announcement.

“Dustin and I are close, that’s tough to hear,” Dufner told The Plain Dealer. “He’s had a pretty good season, so I hope he does what he needs to do to get back out here because that’s a huge talent He’s the type of guy the Tour needs. He’s one of the ‘guys’ guys;’ guys love him out here.”

Ultimately, whatever it is that is causing Johnson problems, it’s clear that his fans and colleagues hope he gets things straightened out and gets back out there bombing drives like few can.