If one word could describe the news cycle surrounding the Dustin Johnson saga, it would be this: Escalation.

On Monday, Johnson had simply withdrawn from the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational due to the ever-vague “personal reasons.” Three days later, he shockingly announced a leave of absence from golf that would span a number of months, citing “personal challenges.”

And then, BOOM!

On Friday a Golf.com report surfaced that the PGA Tour suspended Johnson for six months courtesy of a positive drug test for cocaine. And apparently it wasn’t his first time. The report also alleged, via an unnamed source, that Johnson previously failed a drug test in 2009 for marijuana and another in 2012 for cocaine, one which resulted in a suspension that explained an 11-week absence from competition.

The PGA Tour has since denied that the 30-year-old is suspended, an unusual step for an entity that professes to never replying to speculation on disciplinary action.

While Johnson is no Tiger or Phil, he remains one of the game’s brightest stars. In the past some believed he might be the successor to Tiger’s crown, and others still hold onto the possibility that he could be one of the game’s few preeminent stars if he ever got his head on straight on major championship Sundays and displayed a work ethic that outpaced at least one player in the World Top 10.

How did the media cover these unfoldings and how did the collective public react? Well, it appears the more moralistic the game, the more starved the population is for gossip.

Heading back to the pre-suspension news, there was always a healthy sense of skepticism about Johnson’s words and actions early in the week. Some fans believed this “self-imposed voluntary absence” was truly that, but many others smelled something sour. And more than a few in the golfing media really put the fan base on alert.

All of which made sense. Johnson’s withdrawal Monday was followed by an odd Instagram post of him caddying barefoot for his fiancée Paulina Gretzky while holding a beverage. The photo was later deleted. The months-long leave of absence notice Thursday came seemingly out of nowhere, and considering the PGA Tour’s policy of not disclosing suspensions, it wasn’t much of a stretch to say that is what was afoot.

Once the suspension news broke though, the pent-up desire for drama unleashed itself on the golfing sphere.

The range of reactions among fans cleared the full spectrum, from “no need for punishment, Dustin’s just having fun” to “He should be banned for life!” Multiple reporters then revealed that Johnson’s alleged affinity for drugs is such an ill-kept secret in the Tour’s inner circle that it’s borderline common knowledge.

Golf Channel’s Jason Sobel relayed a quote from a Tour caddy, who upon hearing about Johnson’s “leave of absence,” responded, “What, did he hurt himself lifting another Jet Ski?” (A reference to Johnson’s claim for missing those 11 weeks in the middle of the 2012 season. Clearly, the caddy didn’t buy it.)

And the New York Daily News’ Hank Gola quoted a source saying that “It was probably just a matter of time before [news of Johnson’s drug use] came out. It was pretty widely known.”

Of course, this also proved to be a time to bash the PGA Tour’s policy of withholding disciplinary information. Bob Harig of ESPN.com probably gave the policy the most vehement tongue lashing.

The juiciest Internet exchange regarding Johnson though did not involve information on his suspension at all. The Golf.com report slipped in a salacious detail that, while questionable to include in a report about an alleged suspension due to drugs, captured the most attention: Johnson had committed a “sexual indiscretion” with the wife of a PGA Tour pro.

Given the squeaky clean image of the PGA Tour and the vagueness of this addition (who was it, when did it happen?), people were more than eager to jump on this tidbit and speculate. And the rumor engine was further engaged by Robert Lusetich of Fox Sports, who stated that Johnson’s trysts entailed two PGA Tour wives, one of which broke up the marriage.

In this modern day of instant interaction, consumers rapidly played up theories of the identity of the two women. And rather quickly, they came to a consensus conclusion.

The first rumor to surface was that of the Tour wife whose marriage was allegedly broken up by her affair with Johnson. The name that bubbled up was Alli MacKenzie, the ex-wife of Tour pro Will MacKenzie. As with any rumor like this, some instantly believed the affair on exactly zero evidence. The rumor remains wholly speculative, as no proof has surfaced that a Dustin-Alli tryst occurred. Actually, speaking to the unimpeded and accelerating spread of this gossip, Alli MacKenzie already denied the unsubstantiated intel.

In multiple locations.

If that wasn’t enough, the name of the alleged second Tour wife came into the open: Erin Walker, the spouse of the current leader in the FedEx Cup standings. Again, her name was conjured up out of thin air. At this point, we’re getting into Salem Witch Trial territory, where any name listed by any single person seems to warrant further attention for some reason.

Considering Mrs. Walker is a fierce advocate of her husband, it’s rather unlikely that her name is correct. At the very least, she is no more likely than any other Tour wife, and she appears to be the victim of latent gossip grasping at straws.

In essence, the Dustin Johnson saga has revealed the dark underbelly of golf. Not only are titillating rumors alive in the sport’s inner circle, when they reach the light of day, consumers are desperate for more information.

The fans we point to on the affair rumors definitely don’t represent the whole membership, and are likely just the vocal minority. But clearly these controversies resonate with some viewers.

Maybe more “information” will arise in the coming days, maybe not. Whatever the case, the alleged Dustin Johnson suspension has already kicked up a firestorm in speculation. Just be careful what you choose to believe.

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Kevin's fascination with the game goes back as long as he can remember. He has written about the sport on the junior, college and professional levels and hopes to cover its proceedings in some capacity for as long as possible.

His main area of expertise is the PGA Tour, which is his primary focus for GolfWRX. Kevin is currently a student at Northwestern University, but he will be out into the workforce soon enough. You can find his golf tidbits and other sports-related babble on Twitter @KevinCasey19.

GolfWRX Writer of the Month: September 2014

67 COMMENTS

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  1. Not sure why people care so much. I personally would rather see DJ do coke on his own time than seeing Jimenez smoke cigars on TV. Not sure why smoking is legal during a professional round. Yes, i know coke is illegal and should not be done at all, but its his own problem and hes doing damage to himself not anyone else. It is totally PGA tour’s fault, if he failed the drug test and it is clearly written in black and white that he cannot do that then they should suspend him formally instead of this leave the game for 6 months nonsense. If he has it in his sponsor contract that he cannot do any bumps then Taylor Made should drop him, but right now they are all wishing him well because they are suckers for him because he brings in the crowds.
    System is flawed if you are a good player who brings in the crows then you can get away with anything, if this was player that nobody has ever heard of they would get the ban.

  2. The PGA tour is the main problem. They give one guy a break and the other they crucify. What about Doug Barron. He was using medically authorized testosterone, it is frequently prescribed for men with “low testosterone” levels, imagine that. The dosage is quite small and I saw a picture of Doug (bless him) and he did not look like Arnold Schwarzenegger 30 years ago. The PGA tour gave his name out as someone they “caught” using illegal drugs. I hope he sued the hell out of the PGA tour and Finchem also. Someone mentioned Tiger’s fiasco and they would have kept it quiet but he is followed too closely by the media and way to popular to keep his indiscretions under the radar so he paid the price. My problem is not with DJ being a human being with a problem, my problem is with the PGA tour and it’s discriminatory practices of non-uniform punishment, not that they have to do it very often anyway. The PGA tour is still the cleanest and most wholesome of all professional sports by far.

  3. It seems the USPGA and Don made an agreement? So what – who in the hotter parts of the underworld has anything to do with this.

    Golf journalists are obviously no better than ordinary ones, and that is not meant to be flattering.

    Also, DJ’s alleged humping ladies not belonging to him, is his, and in case it is true, their problem to solve.

    One can only wonder: Is it the golfing enthusiasts or the golf press, that are so extremely interested? I fear, it is the latter. As an avid golfer of 50 years, I do not giva a damn, whether he went into the bushes with every lady he met.

    I do not condone any form of drug abuse, but then again, now it is up to Don Johnson himself, right?

  4. Dustin was caught for the 3rd time using illegal substances. The PGA most likely called in DJ, told him to take a leave of abscence to get help with his drug issue and in return the wouldn’t suspend him, pubicly. No matter how you slice this, it’s a forced suspension by the PGA, as they shoud have done. I hope that DJ takes this opportunity to clean up his act and begin moving forward with his life, I wish him well.

  5. That’s another great point I just read on here!! I don’t care how great of an athlete you are, Usain Bolt track speed, Mike Trout bat speed, Marshawn Lynch ground and pound speed, or Eldrick T Woods distance off the tee…………………a red blooded man will never be able to outrun a gorgeous women that has it in for you and wants to get tapped out by the fame, power, and celebrity of YOU!!!

    NEVER!!

    • So what you’re saying is that it’s natural to snort cocaine, screw around with someone else’s wife and show no respect either to yourself, the organisation you represent or your fellow competitors? Yes I’m sure your right. NOT!!!!!!!!

  6. Kevin, the drug use is pretty well substantiated. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck. His own personal demon statement basically acknowledged this. Second, if the wives stuff was untrue than those that penned it would be liable for slander. The only defense in a slander suit is that it is true. Truth is the ultimate defense. Notice no one is getting sued. Don’t you think if someone recklessly and falsely made thus stuff up we would be seeing some lawsuits flying?

    • I agree the wives part is true. Alli admitted sleeping with Dustin but she said her marriage was already in trouble. That is double talk for yes I was still married but the second I am not happy I start behaving like a single woman even though I am still legally married. Erin being a attention hog and outspoken doesn’t mean she wouldn’t cheat on her husband. A lot of women act loyal and loving in public and hope their cheating is never found out. If the husband never finds out they justify it to themselves as a victimless crime. I hope Jimmy finds out the truth and if Erin cheated he should divorce her and enjoy the life of a famous single millionaire.

  7. Cool guy. Very good with the fans. We all have skeletons but not all of us are pro athletes. The media has a good story . What did we expect? Dustin should stick to the legal stuff. Just tell the party crowd that I have to piss in a cup and move on.

  8. Probably par for the course when it comes to professional athletes. He was the one to get caught. I am sure it is pretty common among basketball, football, baseball, etc athletes because women just chase them. They literally have to beat them off with a stick. 10% of the guys get 90% of the women.

  9. Awful lot of stone throwing going on here. Unless golfWRX members are some strange microcosm of drug free choir boys then there’s a bunch of hypocrites on here. Everyone and I do mean every person I know either does or at least has tried illegal substances. How many of you would fail that test if randomly given one tomorrow?

    • @MHendon……..yeah maybe, but how many WRX’ers purchased bullets for a stolen gun later to be used in a murder? How many have DUI’s? How many have failed multiple drug exams by their employer? How many have earned a king’s ransom of $25 plus million in their entire life? How many have corrupted fellow colleague’s wives? No my friend, not many, so unfortunately when you put your hind quarters out there for all to admire and disdain………stone gonna get tossed at your house!!!

  10. Has anybody heard from his legion of sponsors? Taylormade, where do you stand? Have the posters come down yet? When is the announcement coming either way? This whole smells like my sons diaper after a pork & beans beans and rice dinner! See ya in February Deeej, no harm done, tee it up brother!!!

  11. Who are we to judge DJ? He’s a grown azz man who likes to party a bit…that’s pro sports! Getting paid to play, nailing grade AAA poon, making lots of dough. These guys are not and should not be anybody’s role models. We watch them because they got game and that should be it.

    • Yeah, seems like a harsh ruling…but then again, I’m not sure how long it takes to recover from a cocaine addiction? Also wonder how much DJ could have made in the 6 months of playing on tour? Definitely not chump change…

  12. I really like your article…..aggregate all the unsubstantiated rumors and package into a pretty little package to keep the story going.

    Can’t we just go back to debating the number of majors tiger will retire with….

  13. It’s too bad about DJ and his problem, especially if it’s a problem with cocaine. Let’s hope he can cure himself of his addictions if that’s truly the problem. And for those who always say what is done in his private life, etc., let’s try to remember that cocaine is an illegal substance and you can go to jail for it. It’s not just banned on any major sporting league or tour. Let’s also hope that his fiance’s party girl image isn’t a contributing factor, through either her or her friends. Let’s hope DJ gets back on tour as quickly as possible,he’s just too good.

    • Your employer has every right to know if your involved in any activity that would discredit your employers reputation, brand or bottom line. He is a member of the PGA Tour and the PGA Tour has every right to know if their members are involved in anything that would discredit the tour. If he is suspended for a drug violation, he violated their rules. Play by the rules or play somewhere else.

    • You are correct the married women should have told him no. If they pursued him then he should have said no. He has his pick of single women and he chose married ones. I wont feel sorry for him if an angry husband punches his face.

    • Baltz, I suppose you support DJ’s use of cocaine? I would also surmise that you don’t feel that any of the other major sports entities have the right to drug test or suspend their athletes? He is a piece of garbage for sleeping with someone else’s wife, but I don’t need to hear about it and would agre that at least that part should be kept private. I hope he grows up, gets help for his drug problems and begins acting like a responsible individual. I pray he gets the help he needs.

  14. Should have been a longer ban. What did he get for the first two times? The guy is a low life. PGA tour doesn’t need his type, have no idea why they are protecting him or are they protecting themselves. Having sex with tour wives, doing blow and weed. PGA tour makes the NBA and NFL look mild in comparison. What do you have to do to get a big penalty? Club a baby seal? He is a low life and the PGA Tour is no better protecting and condoning the behavior.

    • The PGA is protecting him because he is a member of the establishment, plain and simple! The good ‘ol boys did everything they could do to keep this kid in the shadows. Where in world was all this understanding and sympathy when Eldrick hit the hydrant?

    • I don’t care about the cocaine use because if you want to shorten your life span that is on you but breaking up marriages is scumbag behavior. He probably slept with the married women in the same bed and home their husbands were on the road working hard to pay for.

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