The PGA Tour denied a report yesterday that Dustin Johnson's leave of absence from pro golf actually is a six-month suspension for having tested positive for cocaine.
Responding to a story from Golf.com, which cited an unnamed source, the Tour issued a statement that said Johnson "is not under a suspension from the PGA Tour" and has taken a leave, as the golfer said in his own statement Thursday, when he referred to unspecified "personal challenges."
Johnson, a top player who has come close to winning two majors and had clinched a spot on the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team, will miss the rest of the season, including the PGA Championship, the playoffs and the Ryder Cup.
The PGA Tour has a drug- testing program, but unlike major team sports leagues, it does not make public its suspensions or fines -- for any breach of conduct. It is unusual for the Tour to make any comment whatsoever about the issue of suspensions, which added an air of urgency to the association's late-afternoon announcement.
That statement was released hours after the Golf.com story appeared online, reporting that Johnson had tested positive recently, and twice before -- in 2009 for marijuana and in 2012 for cocaine. The latter time, he was suspended, according to the report, but he said he missed time because of a bad back.
On Thursday, Johnson's representatives issued a statement in which he said, "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."
The Tour issued only a brief response: "We have nothing to add to Dustin's statement, but we wish him well and look forward to his return to the PGA Tour in the future."
Johnson, 30, is known as one of the longest drivers and one of the better players on tour. He had been fifth on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, meaning he had locked up a place on the 12-player U.S. team that will compete in Scotland next month.
He has won eight tournaments, but he famously lost the 2010 PGA Championship when he grounded his club in a bunker and was assessed a two-stroke penalty that cost him a place in a playoff. That same year, he lost a three-stroke lead in the final round of the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.