Comment: Dustin Johnson's on-course behaviour leaves a bad taste
If and when Dustin Johnson wins the $10 million bonus at next week’s Tour Championship, perhaps the PGA Tour should announce him as the Phlegm-X champion instead of the FedEx champion.
After Sunday’s gobsmacking and gob-emptying performance in Indiana, the world No 2’s reputation as the game’s biggest hitter is in danger of being updated to ‘biggest spitter’ as well.
It is a shame that so many viewers’ enjoyment of the latest Johnson masterclass was marred by a feeling of disgust, as the languid American repeatedly expectorated.
Granted, golf has bigger problems with its image at the moment, from slow play to the unwelcoming nature of some of the more high-profile clubs, but still, this is an issue that needs sorting out.
Someone @pgatour please tell Dustin Johnson to stop spitting. Not gentlemanly golf conduct at all— Arthur MacMillan (@arthurmacmillan) September 11, 2016
I wish Dustin Johnson would spit more, I just can't get enough of his vile habit. #OpenChampionship— Rob Cirin (@Berty23) July 17, 2015
Maybe Dustin Johnson can spit a bit more on the course. Just a thought!— Craig Burley (@CBurleyESPN) September 11, 2016
Plenty of fans will say “Who cares?” But you only had to scan social media as Johnson created his stomach-churning spectacle at the BMW Championship to discover that many cared and many were repulsed. So much for golf being a sport of etiquette.
Johnson is not the first but he is, in my view, the worst. A few years ago I witnessed him depositing a large globule straight after being announced on the first tee. He has been known to chew tobacco, and this may be the reason for his unseemly habit, just as it could be for all the other members of the PGA Tour who spit. But that is no excuse.
Tiger Woods was made to cough up at the 2011 Dubai Desert Classic for spitting on the 12th green. Sky Sports commentator Ewen Murray did not hold back. “You look at his work ethic and he is a credit to the game and an inspiration to all of those who are trying to become professional golfers,” he said.
“But there are some parts of him that are just arrogant and petulant. Somebody now has to come behind him and maybe putt over his spit. It does not get much lower than that. It is one of the ugliest things you will see on a golf course.”
The European Tour clearly thought so, too, breaking its normal protocol by announcing that Woods would be fined. As the footage went viral and the criticism grew, Woods went on Twitter to apologise and to vow to do something about it.
And when, six months later, Keegan Bradley also said sorry for his copious spitting and went into self-enforced spitting rehab, it seemed that the penny was dropping and that the professional game was about to rid itself of this vile act.
But less than a half a decade on, golf has one of its biggest stars spitting at will, and nobody in power doing anything about it. In short, the PGA Tour is not interested. Talking to a few of their officials about the issue recently, I heard that they believed it to be “no big deal” and said it was all to do with cultural differences.
Apparently, in baseball even the club chaplains hawk every other minute, and it upsets only foreign viewers. I struggle to believe that every American finds this acceptable, particularly on tees and greens where others put their hands.
Of course, they cannot simply ban spitting. The last thing golf needs is another stupid rule. There are times when all of us need to spit and it would be impossible to police. But there is a code of conduct in the rule book of every major tour, and it is time it was enforced.
However, do not expect the PGA Tour to do so any time soon, not as it continues to pander to top players with all the “tough love” of Violet Kray. In fact, do not be surprised if it hosts a tournament in Johnson’s honour and calls it “The Expectorate Open”.
Well, they have dafter names for tournaments over there.