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Dustin Johnson WDs from Saudi International with back injury ahead of LIV Golf season opener

Dustin Johnson withdrew from the PIF Saudi International on Thursday due to a back injury, the Asian Tour announced.

Though the specifics of his injury aren’t known, Johnson reportedly tweaked his back during a practice round at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in Saudi Arabia earlier this week. He didn’t play in the pro-am on Wednesday, either.

“Two-time champion Dustin Johnson has unfortunately had to withdraw ahead of the first round of the PIF Saudi International powered by SoftBank Investment Advisers after tweaking his back,” the Asian Tour said in a brief statement, via Golfweek.

Johnson, 38, has battled back injuries in the past. He had to withdraw from the Masters in 2017 with a back injury, too.

Johnson won 24 times on the PGA Tour, including at the Masters and the U.S. Open. He was one of the biggest names to leave the Tour for LIV Golf last year, a move that turned out to be incredibly solid financially. Johnson won more than $35 million in the controversial league’s inaugural season, and won both the individual title and the team title.

Johnson has won the Saudi International twice in the past five years, too, back when the event was part of the DP World Tour. He is expected to play at LIV Golf’s season-opening tournament in Mexico later this month.

While many players who defected from the PGA Tour did so with plenty of controversy and criticism, Jordan Spieth still had high praise for Johnson at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Wednesday.

“He's a Hall of Fame player, somebody who guys, people and the celebrities here really enjoyed being around,” Spieth said. “He's a freak athlete that plays golf. He really loved this event … If you're talking about in general and not just this event, you know, I think there's a number of guys that are missed. But I think D.J. being maybe the first one to go over there and somebody who never was really controversial over here and more so just kind of worked his butt off, it paid off. [He] got his breakthrough at the U.S. Open, then went and won the Masters.

“Just a Hall of Fame player that didn't create controversy with any other players and played on a bunch of Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams. Represented 'em really well. He was a friend of mine. He is a friend of mine. I just haven't seen him.”

Dustin Johnson
Dustin Johnson won the Saudi International twice in the past five years when the tournament was part of the DP World Tour. (Michele Eve Sandberg/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)