World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who fell at his rental house on Wednesday and suffered a back injury, made a dramatic withdrawal from the Masters on Thursday, getting to the first tee for his 2:03 p.m. ET tee time and then having to walk off before taking a shot. Johnson, the reigning U.S. Open champion, would have been the first player in 41 years to tee off at the Masters coming off three-straight tournament wins. He was also hoping to become the first world No. 1 to win the tournament since Tiger Woods in 2002.
DJ’s WD continues what’s already been an odd, disjointed, downcast week at Augusta. The famous azaleas are gone — bloomed three weeks early because of a February heat wave, then freezing during a ice storm in March — robbing the tournament of its most famous sight. Wednesday’s par-3 contest was canceled for the first time in its history because of torrential rains. There was the emotional sendoff for Arnold Palmer during the ceremonial tee shot. And then, in a different type of sadness, the world’s best player won’t be looping it around Augusta National this week. The only other time the Masters was without the world No. 1? Three years ago, when Tiger Woods missed. (World rankings didn’t start until 1986.)
Johnson was coming off back-to-back top-10s at the tournament, going T6 and T4 in 2015 and 2016, respectively. He went T30, T38, T38, T13, CUT in his first five appearances.
The South Carolinian had been the clear betting favorite before what he called his “freak accident” on Wednesday. Oddsmakers dropped him into a 7/1 tie with Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth after the injury was announced.
“I can’t swing full,” Johnson told reporters on his way off the course. “[I] can’t make my normal swing.”
Johnson also revealed he’d been hurrying down a small staircase in his socks when he’d slipped down three stairs, landed at the bottom and hurt his left side.
“It sucks,” he said. “It sucks really bad.”
Just about the time Johnson was walking off the first tee (he had been in the last group of the day), there was a 14-way tie atop the leaderboard at golf’s greatest tournament. The peculiarities continue.