Andrew 'Beef' Johnston has revealed that the reason he withdrew from the British Masters was because he felt uncomfortable with the new 'bubble' environment that has become the norm on the European Tour due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When Johnston withdrew from action just nine holes into the first round at Close House, no one was really sure why the popular Englishman had made that decision, but it seems the new rules that keep players isolated in a hotel room to try and stop them contracting COVID-19 isn't how the 31-year-old wants to spend his life on tour.
“I’m struggling to get my head around it all,” said Johnston, who was 4-over par when he withdrew. “One minute I’m coming out of lockdown, going out for dinner, and then the next I’m back in lockdown in a hotel room.”
After speaking with a European Tour representative, Johnston explained that returning to action and enduring the new 'bubble' environment was something he had been questioning for a long time.
“I’ve been on-off saying I’m going to play, I’m not going to play, for months,” Johnston said. “I kept changing my mind. But being here and being confined to the hotel, confined to the course and not being able to bring my family is ultimately not what I want and not how I want to live my life.
"We like to travel as a family, and it’s just been very difficult to get my head around being stuck in those two places and then coming out and trying to compete. It just doesn’t feel right. I tried to come up here, but I was leaving it later and later. I came up Tuesday morning to try to be away as small a time as possible, but it’s not good prep for a tournament and it shows I don’t really want to be here.”
In 2018, Johnston made a huge step in helping himself and others by telling the world of how he had been struggling with his mental health, sharing stories of how he would arrive in his hotel room after playing a tournament and burst into tears.
“I’ve learned to be honest about it, whereas in the past I might have just swallowed it up,” Johnston said. “I’m not going to do that anymore. If I’m not happy, I’m not going to be here. That’s the golden rule for me now. If I’m not in a good place, or I haven’t got the right set up around me, then it’s not right for me.”
The European Tour has not commented on Johnston's individual case, it is understood that he was offered assistance by chief medical officer Dr Andrew Murray.
In a statement, the European Tour said: “We offer all of our players a comprehensive program to support their mental health and wellbeing. This includes a mental health support hotline, which operates 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. We are also aware that everyone has their own unique circumstances at the moment, which is why the 2020 season is an optional one for our players.”