Dustin Johnson’s decision to play in the Valspar Championship caught tournament officials off guard. But they’ll obviously welcome him. He joins notables like Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson, Jason Day, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed and defending champion Paul Casey.
Johnson hasn’t played the Copperhead Course since 2010, when he missed the cut.
He doesn’t have the star power of Tiger Woods, no golfer does, but here are five things to know about Johnson:
Yes, Johnson has his name in the record books with two of the most successful golfers in history: Jack Nicklaus and Woods. Since turning pro in 2007, Johnson won a PGA Tour event in each of his first 12 seasons. Johnson, Woods and Nicklaus are the only golfers to ever accomplish that.
Connected to the Great One
Johnson has been with Paulina Gretzky, daughter of NHL legend Wayne Gretzky, since 2013. The couple has two children, Tatum Gretzky Johnson and River Jones Johnson. Doubtful that Paulina will be in Palm Harbor next week, but you never know.
A bit of controversy
In August of 2014, Johnson took a six-month leave of absence from the PGA Tour. Some reports said the suspension was for use of illegal substances. Johnson and the Tour denied that. Either way, he returned in February 2015 and got right back to winning, taking the title at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March.
He’s a major champion
Johnson was getting dangerously close to earning the label of “Best player to not win a major." But he got rid of that when he won the 2016 U.S. Open in Oakmont, Pa., beating Jim Furyk by three shots. There was a bit of controversy in the final round. He was assessed a one-stroke penalty for addressing his ball on the fifth green after it moved, but that shot didn’t matter in the final score. Which brings us to yet another controversy…
A wasted opportunity
Johnson will always be remembered for one of the bigger gaffes in golf history. He was all set to win the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. He led by a stroke on the final hole and all he had to do was par. His drive landed in a waste area, or so he thought. It was actually considered a sand trap. Johnson grounded his club, which you can’t do in a sand trap, and was later assessed a two-stroke penalty. He missed out on a playoff with Bubba Watson and Martin Kaymer by a shot. Kaymer eventually won.
When/where: March 21-24, Innisbrook Golf Resort, Copperhead Course, Palm Harbor
Tickets: Wednesday ($10), Thursday, Friday, Sunday ($39), Saturday ($49). Go to Valsparchampionship.com
Defending champion: Paul Casey
Purse: $6.7 million ($1,170,00 to winner)
TV: Thursday-Friday 2-6 p.m. on Golf Channel; Saturday-Sunday 3-6 on NBC
Social media: @ValsparChamp