AUGUSTA, Ga. — Dustin Johnson, saying Thursday he was “going to give it a try” after suffering a back injury during a fall at his rental home on Wednesday, walked off the first tee and pulled out of the Masters just before his first-round tee time.
Johnson, 32, the No. 1-ranked player in the world and the pre-tournament favorite after winning his previous three starts on the PGA Tour, slipped on wooden stairs and fell on his back in a “freak accident,” he said Thursday.
“It sucks,” Johnson said after deciding he couldn’t play in the first major of the year. “Obviously I want to play more than anything. It hurts. I was doing everything I could to try and play.”
Johnson arrived at Augusta National on Thursday with the intention of playing. He visited physical trainers, warmed up on the driving range and hit a few putts. After much discussion with coach Butch Harmon following his warm-up shots, Johnson told ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi that he would “give it a try” and headed to the first tee.
He then headed to the clubhouse just as his group was scheduled to tee off.
“I can’t swing full,” Johnson said. “I can’t make a normal swing. I could go back to about 80 percent.
“… Probably in three days, I’ll be fine. If this had happened Monday, I’d be fine.”
Johnson joins Tiger Woods (2014) as the only other No. 1-ranked player in the world not to play the Masters. He has won each of his past three starts on the PGA Tour.
He was scheduled to play in the day’s final group with two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker. Johnson, who won the U.S. Open last June, has six victories since last year’s Masters, where he tied for fourth.
Two-time major champion Jordan Spieth realized Johnson was out of the tournament when his name was removed from the scoreboard.
“As a friend of his and somebody who’s played a lot of golf with him, I know this: It must really, really not be good in order for him not to tee it up,” Spieth said.
Johnson said he was wearing socks when he slipped on three wooden steps while heading out to the garage to move a car at the home that he is renting in Augusta on Wednesday night. He said he landed on his left side and that his elbow is bruised.
He said he was up most of the night, using ice and heat to treat the injury.
His manager, David Winkle, told ESPN on Wednesday that Johnson was advised to remain immobile and begin taking anti-inflammatory medication and icing the injury in hopes of being ready for the first round.
“Obviousl, I want to play more than anything,” Johnson said. “Just sitting there on the putting green. … I just can’t swing the club. I’m probably playing the best golf of my career. It’s one of my favorite tournaments, one I look forward to every year.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.