Dustin Johnson’s Disappearance

After leaving for LIV Golf, Dustin Johnson has not been the same player. And he admits as much.


We never heard much from Dustin Johnson before, but we hear even less from him now, both on the microphone and on major leaderboards. He is tucked away on LIV with minimal media obligations, living his life down in South Florida. It’s probably just how he wants it.

But he did agree to another round of Netflix’s Full Swing show, giving us a rare opportunity to hear from him. In the middle of that appearance, he dropped what was by DJ standards a jumbo bomb.

Speaking after a rather limp T-10 at the 2023 U.S. Open in LA, DJ uttered, “I didn’t give it a full go. Maybe got a little lazy, I don’t know what it was. So I am going to grind a little harder to get it back to where it was when I was contending every week.”

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/PGA of America)

It was a stunning admission for someone who is rarely eager to explore failure (or anything else) in any great detail. Oddly enough, it came after one of his more respectable major championship finishes since he jumped to LIV in June of 2022. He’s had two top 10s since that move: that LACC finish and a quiet T-6 at St. Andrews a month after he’d switched tours. By comparison, from 2015 to 2020 he had more top-10 finishes (13) than not (9).

He missed the cut at the Masters this year, which is actually hard to do given the smaller field. And now he’s opened the PGA with a lackluster 2-over 73 that has him outside the top 100. It looked worse off paper, thanks to an opening-nine 40 that included one pull hook straight out of the 15-handicapper’s arsenal that traveled just 156 yards off the tee. All this occurred while his contemporaries, grouped around him in a cluster of superstar tee times, proceeded to light up a soft and gettable Vahalla. That included Rory McIlroy playing in his own group. DJ carded two birdies on his second nine to make his card respectable, and he’s got Friday still to go. You’d like to think he watched Rory today, knows he’s been every bit the player for most of their overlapping careers, and is motivated to challenge him and those ahead of him like Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, and others.

I think it’s probably facile to blame LIV itself for DJ becoming a non-factor at the majors since he joined. He might have been on a downward trend already. He just might be in a temporary rough patch now that’s entirely unrelated to LIV. He wasn’t great in majors in 2021 or 2022, before he left the PGA Tour. There’s also that Netflix admission about needing to grind a little harder.

Whatever the cause, it’s a loss for the game to see arguably the greatest player of his age group tumble to irrelevance for multiple years at the game’s most important events. Watching DJ play golf anywhere was one of the great privileges and unique experiences of the last decade, especially at the toughest courses and the biggest events.

In the first season of that Netflix show, DJ’s wife, Paulina, said in response to the negative backlash about his jump to LIV: “If anyone thinks Dustin has lost his competitive spirit, they dont know Dustin well enough because he is ready to still show you who the fuck he is.” A year later, he was wondering out loud if he’d gotten lazy. Another year later, we’re searching for proof of life in Louisville.

This piece originally appeared in the Fried Egg Golf newsletter. Subscribe for free and receive golf news and insight every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. For more coverage of the PGA Championship, visit our PGA hub here.