Dustin Johnson’s participation at the 2019 Presidents Cup is under threat after the American withdrew from this week’s Hero World Challenge.
Johnson was one of the eight automatic qualifiers for Tiger Woods’ United States team set to face the Internationals at Royal Melbourne Golf Club in Australia from December 12-15.
Having undergone minor surgery on a niggling knee injury in the off-season since he last competed in the Tour Championship finale of the PGA Tour’s FedEx PlayOff Series in August, Johnson had planned to make his return in the Hero World Challenge.
The Tiger Woods-hosted Hero World Challenge, an invite only tournament, is the final event before the Presidents Cup, and Johnson’s absence now casts doubt over whether or not he will take his place in the 12-man squad heading to Melbourne.
“After a lot of careful thought and consultation, I have decided that it is in my best interest if I withdraw from next week’s Hero World Challenge,” Dustin Johnson said.
“While my recovery from knee surgery is complete, I feel another week of physical therapy and practice will best prepare me for the Presidents Cup.”
Dustin Johnson remains confident of lining-up for the Americans in Australia and added: “I have informed Captain [Tiger] Woods of my decision, which he fully supports and understands, and cannot wait to tee it up with him and my team-mates next week in Australia.”
Johnson’s place in the Hero World Challenge has been taken by Chez Reavie, who could be a potential replacement in the Presidents Cup along with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Na who also failed to make the final team.
Woods has already had to make one change to his original Presidents Cup side when world number one Brooks Koepka—the top qualifier for the US team—withdrew after pulling out of the CJ Cup in South Korea in mid-October after two rounds.
Koepka had undergone stem cell surgery on his right knee during the PGA Tour off-season following his tied third position finish in the Tour Championship, but did make a successful return in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
But he curtailed the defence of his CJ Cup title and subsequently withdrew from the Presidents Cup team to face Ernie Els’ Internationals.
Woods opted to name Rickie Fowler, who he had originally overlooked for a wildcard when instead selecting himself, as Koepka’s replacement.
It would, however, be a significant blow should Woods lose another of his leading names for the 2019 Presidents Cup should Johnson follow Koepka in being ruled out.
The Americans are the defending champions ahead of the 13th Presidents Cup having won 19-11 at Liberty National Golf Club in New Jersey in 2017 to make it seven straight victories for the United States.
The International team last won the Presidents Cup back in 1998—the only time they have triumphed—with a dominant 20.5-11.5 win when it was also held at the Royal Melbourne Golf Club, which also staged the 2011 event when the United States emerged as 19-15 victors.