AUGUSTA, Ga. — After falling down a set of stairs Wednesday afternoon and injuring his back, world No. 1 Dustin Johnson wanted to “try” and play the Masters. But in the end, the pain was too much and the tournament favorite withdrew from play just moments before he was supposed to tee off in the opening round.
“It sucks,” a dejected Johnson said. “I wanted to play. … I’m playing the best golf of my career, and having a freak accident happen.”
Johnson, who was scheduled to tee off at 2:03 p.m. ET in the last grouping of the opening round, arrived at Augusta National Thursday at 12:30 p.m. He quickly headed to the practice range to test his back before making a final decision.
He hit a handful of short-range shots, showing no sign of injury, and could be seen joking with his swing coach, Butch Harmon. When it came time to hit driver, however, Johnson deferred to his brother/caddie, Austin, to tee up his ball.
As he left the range, Johnson briefly spoke to ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi, saying he’s “gonna try” to play. But as the final threesome walked to the first tee, only two players showed up – Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker. Moments later, a tournament official pulled Johnson’s name from the scoreboard.
Johnson, standing near the Augusta National clubhouse about 50 yards from the first tee, explained that during the cart ride over from the range to the first tee he determined that while he could “make some swings” there was no chance “I will be competitive.”
Word of Johnson’s injury leaked late Wednesday afternoon, sending shock waves throughout the golfing world. The accident occurred at Johnson’s rental house. He explained that his son, Tatum, was due home from daycare, so he was going out to move a car. He said he was walking in socks down a flight of just three stairs when he slipped and fell, landing on his left elbow and left back.
He said he was up all night, icing and heating his back, in preparation to play.
“It sucks, it really does,” he said. “In two days, I’ll be fine. … If this had happened Monday …”
Having won his last three tournaments, Johnson came into the week as the favorite to win the green jacket. But his quest to win his first Masters will have to wait another year.