Dustin Johnson’s $125 million deal to sign with the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf Series means he’ll make more money than any other golfer, including Tiger Woods, has earned on the green in their entire PGA tour careers.
On Thursday, former world No. 1 golfer Johnson will play in the inaugural LIV Golf Series event at London’s Centurion Club. Along with several other high-profile players including Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler and Sergio Garcia, the 2020 Masters winner has been lured away from the PGA Tour with the promise of a paycheck to end all paychecks.
In his defense, Johnson has said that he has chosen “what is best for me and my family.” Given that’s he’s already won over $74 million in prize money and bought a $14 million, 10,134-square-foot house in Jupiter Island, Fla.’s exclusive Admirals Cove, they’re not likely strapped for cash.
Johnson’s family is made up of his wife Paulina, 33, and their two sons, 7-year-old Tatum and River, 4. The daughter of ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, Paulina is also a model, singer and social media influencer, boasting one million followers on Instagram.
She is also known for her provocative photoshoots— and Johnson certainly appreciates them, often commenting on his wife’s images: “I love that a–,” he’s said, and “I can’t wait to get you in bed…”
At times, Gretzky can seem almost as famous as her husband. In 2014 Golf Digest featured her on the cover — a move that incensed the professional players on the Ladies PGA Tour, who hadn’t been on the cover for six years.
“Paulina ranks at the high end of the golf celebrity scene today and she has a compelling story to tell,” said Golf Digest Editor-in-Chief Jerry Tarde in response.
The couple first met in 2009 when Johnson was paired with Paulina’s mother — ’80s bombshell actress Janet Jones (“The Flamingo Kid,” “American Anthem”) at a golf event. The two got on so well that she invited him over to have dinner with husband Wayne, which is when he met Paulina.
But it wasn’t exactly love at first sight, and the couple didn’t start dating until 2013. Within seven months, though, they would be engaged.
The couple originally planned to get married in 2014, but Johnson had his own personal problems to deal with first. (Paulina’s father, Wayne, also reportedly intervened to make sure Johnson got his life back on track.)
In March 2009, he had been arrested for drunk driving near his hometown in Horry County, South Carolina, with a blood alcohol level over twice the legal limit. The DUI charge was later dropped when Johnson pleaded guilty to reckless driving and was fined $445.
But his reputation as one of golf’s party boys continued to grow.
“It’s one of the least-kept secrets on tour how much [Johnson] likes to party,’’ one PGA Tour source told The Post.
In 2011, Johnson’s then-coach Butch Harmon had to confront his charge about his lifestyle.
“We had a come-to-Jesus conversation about getting his personal life in order,” he said. “He’s a fun-loving guy, I realize that. But there’s a time to play and a time to work.”
Golf.com reported that Johnson failed three drug tests — for marijuana in 2009 and cocaine in 2012 and 2014. While the PGA Tour never goes public with player suspensions, Johnson’s repeated absences from the game led many to draw their own conclusions —not least because the player announced he was taking leave from the sport in 2014 “to seek professional help for personal challenges I have faced.”
One golf insider told The Post that while Johnson is still well-liked in the professional ranks, especially by those who played with him on Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, the stories about his lifestyle won’t go away.
“Lots of rumors always surrounded him, but very few are ever reported,” the insider said.
It would be nine years after Gretzky’s and Johnson’s engagement before the couple finally married — and rumors followed the couple during this time.
In 2018, reports emerged that Johnson had developed a close friendship with California socialite and keen golf fan Yassie Safai. Both parties denied anything untoward had happened, but not before Gretzky removed all traces of Johnson from her Instagram account.
But whatever happened is in the past now.
On April 23, Dustin Johnson and Paulina Gretzky finally got married at Blackberry Farm, a luxury resort in the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. Kid Rock performed at the party, covering Chris Stapleton’s “Joy of My Life.”
Prior to the ceremony, the couple held a joint bachelor and bachelorette party, chartering a private jet to fly friends to St. Barts in the Caribbean. Needless to say, the photos were all over Instagram, with one captioned “No Regretzskys.”