McDowell in the dark about Johnson situation
‘Tough to know what is going down. We all wish Dustin well and hopefully he is back playing our game soon’
Graeme McDowell: “Our drug policy is very clear, we all abide by it. The rumour mill says things, are they true? Are they not? Who knows?”
Graeme McDowell beat the weather front and also, finally, the South Course here at Firestone Country Club on Saturday as he shot a third round 66 for a 54-hole total of 207, three-under-par, in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational which moved him into a top-20 position.
But as storm clouds moved in to disrupt the later starters - with leader Sergio Garcia retaining his position at the head of affairs on 14-under through 15 holes of his third round, five shots clear of Rory McIlroy and Marc Leishman who also had three holes remaining when the siren halted play due to the threat of lightning - it was a cloud of a different kind which continued to hang over golfing matters.
Dustin Johnson’s decision to take an unexplained break from the sport cast a cloud on proceedings here, with Tiger Woods commenting “it’s sad that he’s got to take a hiatus . . . he’s such an enormous talent. It’s always tough to see one of your friends struggling like that.”
The PGA Tour issued a statement that Johnson has taken a “voluntary leave of absence and is not under a suspension” and his management company in a statement claimed he was dealing with “personal challenges” but Golf.com reported that the player had failed three drug tests - for marijuana in 2009 and for cocaine in 2012 and this year - which was the reason for his, as Woods put it, “hiatus.”
McDowell, asked about the Johnson situation after finishing his third round, responded: “Our drug policy is very clear, we all abide by it. The rumour mill says things, are they true? Are they not? Who knows? It is very difficult for anyone to speculate. We are talking about an incredibly talented athlete, who we hope will be back helping the PGA Tour brand and the game of golf around the world. So, like I say, very difficult to comment on something, I don’t know much about it.
“We have a drug policy and it has to be implanted fairly across the board. Especially with the Olympics on the horizon, we have got to tow the line on a drug point of view like all the other sports do. The PGA Tour control how they handle things, they are an incredibly big brand around the world and they have got to protect their players but their players have got to play fairly as well. So, tough to know what is going down. We all wish Dustin well and hopefully he is back playing our game soon.”
As far as his own game was concerned, McDowell finally got the better of a South Course that has proven problematic through the years and which he had considered skipping only that he is in need of Ryder Cup points.
“Four under par around this golf course is way below my scoring average at Firestone, I’m pretty pleased with that . . . . I’m disappointed to drop a few coming in but generally gets me in some decent shape to have something to fire for (the final round),” said McDowell.