Irmo’s Dustin Johnson is taking a leave of absence from golf to seek help for “personal challenges,” a swift end to his season that will keep him from playing the PGA Championship, the FedEx Cup playoffs and the Ryder Cup.
In a statement Thursday from Hambric Sports Management, the 30-year-old Johnson, who now lives in Florida, said his leave of absence was effective immediately.
It did not indicate how long he would be out, though agent David Winkle told the PGA of America Johnson would not be at the PGA Championship next week or the Ryder Cup at the end of September.
“I will use this time to seek professional help for personal challenges I have faced,” said Johnson, a Dutch Fork High School graduate who attended Coastal Carolina University. “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.”
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Johnson asked for privacy “as I embark upon this mission of self-improvement.”
"It's news to me,” said Jimmy Koosa, the golf pro who operates Lexington’s Koosa Golf and was Johnson's teacher when he was younger. “I'm sorry to hear it.
“He's one of my guys. He grew up with me. I worked with him off and on for a long time, but he's got something nobody can teach. He's got talent.”
Johnson, who tied for fourth in the U.S. Open and tied for 12th in the British Open, was No. 5 in the Ryder Cup standings and virtually certain to earn one of nine automatic spots when qualifying ends next week for the PGA Championship.
As long as he stays in the top nine, he will be replaced by the next player in the standings.
“We will certainly miss Dustin Johnson at Gleneagles, and we wish him the best,” U.S. captain Tom Watson said. “As one of the longest hitters in the game with an undefeated record of 3-0 at Medinah in 2012, he has clearly been an asset for the United States team. That said, the United States is a team with an abundance of talent.”
Johnson won the HSBC Champions in Shanghai last October at the start of the PGA Tour’s wraparound season. He has seven top 10s this year on the PGA Tour and was No. 4 in the FedEx Cup standings.
It’s the second time in two years that Johnson has missed a major under curious circumstances.
He pulled out of the Masters in 2012, saying he had tweaked his back while lifting a jet ski. He wound up missing three months, and won in his second tournament back.
Johnson played in the final group in the third round of the British Open with Rory McIlroy, fading with a 71-72 weekend and tying for 12th. He missed the cut the following week at the RBC Canadian Open, and then withdrew from the World Golf Championship at Firestone.
The PGA Tour offered little in a statement.
“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,” the tour said.
Johnson is No. 16 in the world ranking with eight PGA Tour victories. He is the first player since Tiger Woods to go from college to winning in each of his first seven seasons on the PGA Tour.
He lost a three-shot lead in the final round of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, closing with an 82. Later that year, he was assessed a two-shot penalty on the final hole of the PGA Championship for grounding his club in a patch of sand, not realizing it was a bunker at Whistling Straits.
Johnson last year got engaged to Paulina Gretzky, the daughter of NHL great Wayne Gretzky.