World No.1 Dustin Johnson has been forced to pull out of the Masters, just moments before teeing off in the opening round.
The 32-year-old injured his back the night before the first round when he fell down stairs in his Augusta rental home. He was apparently wearing just socks on his feet when he went to move his car into the garage because of the severe storms in the area and slipped down three steps leading in the garage. He landed on his lower back and left elbow in the fall.
Johnson was treated with anti-inflammatory medication and iced the injury well into the night.
He arrived at the course shortly before 12.30pm local time, about 90 minutes before his first round tee time, with every intention of playing. He visited physical trainers, warmed up on the driving range and hit a few putts.
He appeared to be in some discomfort on the follow-through while hitting shots on the range, watched by his coach Butch Harmon. He also had his caddie place balls on a tee for him to hit.
After the brief session he spoke with his team, including Harmon, as well as Masters Committee member and head of championship Fred Ridley before walking to the clubhouse. On the way, he told a TV reporter “I’m gonna try” when asked if he was playing.
A short time later he emerged from the clubhouse and walked out to the 1st tee. It is understood he told playing partners Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker of his intention to withdraw. Johnson headed to the clubhouse just as Watson and Walker was scheduled to tee off.
After Watson and Walker were gone, Johnson briefly addressed the media.
"I'm playing the best golf of my life and to have a freak accident happen yesterday afternoon, it sucks really bad," Johnson said.
"I have been worked on all morning and obviously I can make some swings, but I can't swing full, I can't make my normal swing and I didn't think there was any chance I could compete.
"I was wearing socks and slipped and went down the three stairs. The left side of my lower back took the brunt of it and my left elbow is bruised as well.”
Johnson joins Tiger Woods (2014) as the only World No.1-ranked players not to play the Masters. He’s also the first No.1 player not to play a major since Rory McIlroy did not start the 2015 Open at St Andrews.