AUGUSTA, Ga. – Bad backs are commonplace on the PGA Tour but repetition of the golf swing is the usual culprit. Dustin Johnson’s fall on Wednesday afternoon in Augusta is so different that nobody knew what to expect right up until the moment that the world’s No. 1 player walked off the first tee as a last-second withdrawal.
About an hour prior to his 2:03 p.m. tee time, the last of the day, Johnson started warming up on the practice range with the Golf Channel broadcasting every swing live. It was a long drama with a dud of an ending, and great disappointment for DJ and his fans and the tournament.
Jack Nicklaus spoke early Thursday morning about the uncertainty of back injuries and how they get into a player’s mind. Not just the pain, but the anxiety over how the body will react during any particular swing. As it was, Johnson had his caddy teeing balls for him on the practice range so that he wouldn’t have to constantly do the bending.
Nicklaus only withdrew from two tournaments in his PGA Tour career. One was at the Masters, when back spasms caused him to drop out just prior to his second-round tee time in 1983. The other was at the World Series of Golf in Akron in 1981. That time Nicklaus, who was in third place heading into the final round, dropped to his knees on the practice tee and had to be helped off.
“We all have injuries,” Nicklaus said. “You go through them. I don’t know how many times, lifting the suitcase into the trunk, you pull a rib and you’re sore for about two weeks. Let’s just play through it.”
Gary Player said “Hundreds of times in life, in my 64 years as a pro, players arrived with bad injuries and they played.”
Naturally, Player turned it up a notch with his storytelling, jumping up from the interview table to demonstrate how he once hurt himself during a South Africa tournament doing squats. Oh, and by the way, he was while holding a friend on his back at the time.
“Man, he was fat,” Player said of the friend, “or, should I say, I was weak.”
Johnson slipped on some wet wooden stairs Wednesday while heading out of the garage to move a car. He was wearing socks and no shoes.
DJ came to the Masters on a three-tournament win streak.