PGA Tour's integrity questioned


AKRON, Ohio -- Among Dustin Johnson's eight PGA Tour victories was a win last fall in China, an impressive showing at the WGC-HSBC Championship that kick-started an impressive 2013-14 season. Johnson was humming along with more than $4 million in earnings and status as one of the top American players.

Nobody would have been surprised to see him notch his first major title next week at the PGA Championship, but Johnson won't be at Valhalla in Louisville, Kentucky, where the rest of the game's greats will convene for the fourth major championship of the year.

He announced a leave of absence on Thursday, and then on Friday, followed with the bombshell report that his absence is due to a failed drug test that involved cocaine. According to a source that the website did not identify, it is the third time that Johnson has failed such a test, and he is being suspended for six months.

And of course, not a peep from the PGA Tour.


The story first broke early Friday afternoon, and PGA Tour vice president Ty Votaw initially told ESPN that "the Tour does not comment on rumors and speculation." And that is in keeping with the tour's stance to never comment on any kind of disciplinary matters.

Then hours later, the PGA Tour released another statement, saying that "Mr. Johnson has taken a voluntary leave of absence and is not under a suspension from the PGA Tour."

So what's the policy?

Do you comment on suspensions or don't you?

And if the report was egregious, why would the tour -- or Johnson's representatives -- not scream at the top of its lungs, crying foul?

Typically, the answer is so rehearsed there is little need to ask.

If a player is fined for dropping an F-bomb, there is no disclosure. Slow play? Same thing. A failed drug test? You got it.

The only exception: if a player failed a performance-enhancing drug test, which has happened exactly once in the six-year-plus history of the tour's drug-testing program.


The PGA Tour has long been chastised for its lack of transparency in these matters, and while a fine for cussing might not be worth telling the world about, a failed drug test that results in a player being sent to the sideline for any length of time and kept from competing is absolutely information that should be disclosed.

Johnson is ranked 16th in the world and would have been a key member of the U.S. Ryder Cup team next month. He is a fan favorite, fun to watch, drawing the praise of none other than Tiger Woods, who is awed by the length Johnson can hit a golf ball.

Given the conflicting reports that are out there, it's fair to wonder if the two sides came to some agreement to call it a voluntary leave.

Could you imagine the NFL trying to keep secret the recent Ray Rice suspension? So why does the PGA Tour believe it is above such disclosure to its fans and sponsors?

Commissioner Tim Finchem has been asked about this numerous times, and the response is always similar to this 2009 answer he gave at the season-opening tournament in Hawaii, when the subject was John Daly and a suspension he received -- learned only because Daly said so.

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