Dustin Johnson’s manager and his coach still aren’t sure when he will return, but his trainer is backing Golf Channel reporter Tim Rosaforte’s story Monday that Johnson is aiming to return to the PGA Tour at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, Feb. 5-8.
“To the best of my knowledge” the timeline is correct, trainer Joey Diovisalvi texted Golf.com Tuesday, but Diovisalvi added that plans change and it’s far too early to set the return date in stone.
David Winkle, Johnson’s agent, reiterated Tuesday that Johnson has said all along he will return to the Tour after the birth of his and fiancé Paulina Gretzky’s first child. Swing coach Claude Harmon, who teaches Johnson, said, “I don’t know his time frame. The few times I saw him [at the Floridian, just north of West Palm Beach] he’s looked healthy and happy. He’s playing and practicing a lot, but he hasn’t mentioned anything to me.”
Johnson, 30, has long flirted with the title of America’s Best Young Player. An eight-time Tour winner, he led by three shots going into the final round of the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach but blew up to a final-round 82. He lost the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits later that summer when he mistakenly grounded his club in a bunker. Johnson contended again at the British Open last July, but couldn’t keep up with Rory McIlroy.
It was shortly afterward that Johnson’s 2014 season, one of his best, came to an abrupt end. He announced he was taking leave of absence on July 31, vowing to address “personal challenges” after running afoul of the PGA Tour for what Golf.com would reveal was his third failed drug test.
The Tour contended Johnson was not dealt a six-month suspension, as Golf.com reported Aug. 1, but was taking time off of his own accord. Unlike other professional sports leagues, the Tour does not disclose details of suspensions, but should Johnson return to action at the Farmers, starting Feb. 5, it would be six months and four days since the Golf.com report. His results at the scenic and storied Torrey Pines tournament have been mostly unexceptional, with his best a T3 in 2011.
Johnson has been sorely missed — perhaps more so than anyone could have predicted when he dropped off the Tour. His absence was felt most acutely by the U.S. Ryder Cup team, which traveled to Scotland and lost badly, triggering a wave of second-guessing and hurt feelings.
He also has remained in the news despite not playing golf on TV. A recent report showed Johnson had moved from 17th to 15th in the World Ranking despite his continuing absence. (He is now 16th.) Playing only through July of this year, Johnson earned $4.25 million in 17 starts, and recent accounts would suggest his game hasn’t suffered much as a result of his hiatus from competition. He reportedly shot a course-record 61 at L.A.’s Sherwood Country Club last month.
He also recently filed suit against a former business advisor.
Winkle, his agent, says the long-hitting golfer has done everything he said he would, in order to improve as both a player and a person, when he dropped off the Tour. “He’s really excited about being a parent,” Winkle said.