Dustin Johnson, the world’s No. 1 golfer, withdrew from the Masters minutes before he was scheduled to tee off Thursday after injuring his lower back in a freak accident.
Johnson warmed up at the driving range and was at the first hole for his scheduled 2:03 p.m. tee time at Augusta National, before walking off the tee box and into the clubhouse.
Johnson said he wanted to play, but didn’t think he could compete after he strained his back falling on small staircase at his rental home in Augusta on Wednesday afternoon.
“It sucks. I want to play. I'm playing probably the best golf of my career and this is one of my favorite tournaments of the year,” Johnson said during a brief meeting with reporters. “I look forward to it every year and to have a freak accident happen after I got back from the course, it sucks. It sucks really bad.”
Johnson, a Columbia native who played at Coastal Carolina, had won all three events he’d entered this year to claim the No. 1 ranking. He arrived at Augusta as the prohibitive favorite to win his first green jacket.
Johnson said he was wearing socks and going down a set of three steps to move his car Wednesday afternoon when he slipped and fell, landing hard on his left side. He said his left elbow was bruised and swollen, but his lower back took the brunt of the fall.
He iced his back and took anti-inflammatories and, despite a bad night of sleep, was hopeful he could play. After hitting balls at the range, Johnson took a couple of swings near the practice green and knew he couldn’t go.
“I just can’t swing the club,” he said.
Johnson leaves behind a wind-blown course playing long and difficult due to the conditions. As of 2:45 p.m., a group of 14 players were tied for the lead at 1-under par.