Dustin Johnson finished his 2018-19 PGA Tour season with a whimper, failing to produce a top-10 finish over his final eight starts. But it looks like a part of those struggles may be explained. Johnson underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last week to repair cartilage damage in his left knee.
This particular procedure, fortunately, is considered routine. In fact, it is incredibly similar to a past procedure Johnson underwent back in December 2011 on his right knee. For context, he was able to return to action the following month. Last week’s procedure was performed in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., by orthopedic surgeon Dr. George Caldwell, who has worked with multiple sports teams, including the Miami Dolphins and Miami Marlins.
Johnson is expected to make a full recovery following this procedure. Assuming the timeline is similar to the last time he underwent this type of surgery, it would put him on track to return around mid-October, perhaps right before the PGA Tour begins its international swing starting with the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in South Korea.
This past season was one where Johnson looked to be in peak form at first. He won at the WGC Mexico Championship, making it 11 straight years where he has won at least one PGA Tour event. He was also the runner-up in two majors, including the Masters.
However, as mentioned previously, Johnson finished the schedule about as poorly as possible. One of the world’s best golfers, DJ failed to finish in the top 10 in any of his last eight tournaments, three of which were in the FedEx Cup Playoffs. It’s the longest non-top-10 stretch he has had in a single season since his rookie year in 2008.
In Johnson’s most recent start, the season-ending Tour Championship, he tied for last place in the 30-man field. He recorded four consecutive rounds over par and finished at +10, despite beginning the tournament at -3 due to the new Starting Strokes format. The last time Johnson didn’t record a round of par-or-better over a four-round tournament was at the 2013 BMW Championship. And not since the 2013 U.S. Open has he finished double-digits over par for four rounds.
A lot of Johnson’s struggles during this time were happening on weekends as the tournament stretched out, maybe due in part to the knee issue that he is hoping will be alleviated following surgery. Of his six made cuts over those eight tournaments, which would total 12 weekend rounds, Johnson finished just three of those 12 rounds under par, with two others at even par.
DJ also ranked 10th and 9th in first- and second-round scoring average, respectively, but T-92 and T-126 in the third and fourth rounds.
While this surgery will keep Johnson out for a few weeks, a return next month isn’t out of the question at all. He should be back no later than November, in time for the WGC-HSBC Champions in China, an event he has typically played.
The Hero World Challenge is also an event coming up that has been a part of his normal schedule. He is also one of eight Americans who automatically qualified for the U.S. Presidents Cup team that will duel against the International Team this December.
While Johnson recovers, the 2019-20 PGA Tour season officially tees off this weekend. Bryson DeChambeau, Bubba Watson, and defending champion Kevin Na are gearing up for A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, beginning Thursday in White Sulphur Springs, WVa.