Saturday, August 2, 2014

Remember that Weird Dustin Johnson-Natalie Gulbis 'Relationship'?

Were they or weren't they? Dating, that is. Were Natalie Gulbis and Dustin Johnson a couple in early 2011, or weren't they? Not even Natalie and Dustin could agree on the answer.

Do you remember that strange series of events? Public figures generating rumors about dating, girlfriends/boyfriends, are-they-or-aren't-they is a common thing. But it hasn't happened too often in golf.

Before Dustin Johnson blew up the rumor mill with allegations (yet unproven, and in some cases denied by affected third parties) of drug use and sleeping around with other men's wives, he and Gulbis blew up the rumor mill in 2011. Well, "blew up" is too strong a word. Not many people outside golf paid any attention. So let's say DJ and Natalie "inflated" the rumor mill.

The rumors started at the 2011 PGA Tour season opener, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, where Natalie was spotted in the crowd following Dustin's group.

Gulbis then confirmed to Golf.com that she and Johnson were dating. They had apparently gotten together during the Wendy's 3-Tour Challenge in Las Vegas a few months earlier.

But what kind of relationship was it? Casual dating? Something more serious? "I'll let Dustin handle our PR," Gulbis told Golf.com.

OK, then, Dustin Johnson, ball's in your court. "Johnson declined comment," Golf.com wrote.

Hmmmm. Maybe Dustin just didn't want to be distracted by the publicity a DJ-Natalie hook-up was sure to generate - was, in fact, already generating.

But then it got weird. A mere one week later, at the PGA Tour's 2011 Sony Open, Johnson was asked again about Gulbis. This time, he was willing to make comment. And his comment? He was not dating Gulbis!

To recap: At the 2011 TOC, Gulbis followed Johnson and confirmed they were dating. One week later, at the Sony Open, Gulbis was absent and Johnson said they were not dating.

Obviously, they broke up in the space between the tournaments. But broke up what? Maybe, in Johnson's mind, Gulbis wasn't his girlfriend but simply a friend with benefits. Or a mere conquest. Who knows.

According to the AP report at the time, "(Johnson) says he has spent some time with Gulbis, but that they are not dating."

They way it all happened made it sound like Gulbis misunderstood Johnson's interest - and vice-versa - and that Gulbis thought they were in a relationship while Johnson thought they were just having a good time.

We'll never know the true story. But for a few glorious days in January 2011, the golf world got to bask in the reflected glory of a supposed superstar power couple.

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