The trials and tribulations of Woods always draw attention but it is the exit of Johnson which is much more significant for the season’s opening Major.
He has been ruling golf like an emperor this year and for him to be ruled out of Augusta with a back injury is a cruel blow both personally and for the tournament itself.
The timing, just moments before he was due to tee off in the final group, was as dramatic as the cause was bizarre. Johnson’s fall downstairs on Wednesday at the Augusta house he is renting with his family showed a dark side to the golf gods.
The lesson going forward for the frustrated American is not to go down wooden steps in socks. “I just slipped,” he said. “There was only three steps – in some ways it might have been better if I’d fallen down a full staircase. My left elbow is swollen and bruised, but my back took the brunt of it.
“I was doing everything I could to play – ice and heat last night. I was desperate to get it ready for this morning.
Dustin Johnson pulled out of The Masters because of a back injury
Tiger Woods pulled out of The Masters a week ago
“I was making swings on the range but could only go 80 per cent. I could make a good backswing, but at impact it was too much. It hurts. I took a few swings on the putting green but I just couldn’t make my normal swing.
“The worst thing is that it feels like in two days I’ll be fine. By Saturday and Sunday I’ll probably be playing golf again. It sucks.”
Johnson had given himself until the very last second to make his tee time, undergoing treatment, between two try-outs on the practice range.
After securing agreement from Augusta National for his physiotherapist to treat him during his round if necessary, he declared his intention to give it a go but reality dawned on the putting green and he informed officials his race was run before it had started. Johnson’s premature exit may leave a gaping hole in the cast list but it also leaves the tournament wide open.
If that is unlikely to help Danny Willett whose defence started in less than impressive style with a double bogey at the opening hole after an horrendous slice off the tee, then plenty of other Englishmen look capable of stepping up.
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Masters 2017: Dustin Johnson withdraws from tournament
Thu, April 6, 2017
Click to reveal the first snaps as Dustin Johnson withdraws from the Masters 2017
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Click for the first snaps as Dustin Johnson withdraws from the Masters 2017
Matt Fitzpatrick, another son of Sheffield, started brightly as did Justin Rose with Paul Casey also on the leaderboard but it was Andy Sullivan who took a share of the clubhouse lead. It is supposed to take years of trial and error to play Augusta National but Sullivan is evidently a quick learner.
On just his second visit, Sullivan has already discarded his Masters L-plates with a one-under par 71.
Sullivan admitted to being overawed last year on his debut when he missed the cut. When fantasy becomes reality, it can be destabilising and for an ordinary kid from Nuneaton the Augusta experience was all too much. Take Two was altogether a different story. This was a professional golfer at work in his office.
Sullivan, who made his Ryder Cup debut last year, has endured a quiet start to 2017 but there were signs of life in a 20th place finish at last month’s World Golf Championship event in Mexico and he sparked fully yesterday in some of the trickiest conditions Augusta could muster.
The strong winds kept the greenkeepers busy with hand-held blowers removing debris and made scoring difficult. Anything under par was highly commendable.
Andy Sullivan finished with a respectable one-under par
The elements have not been kind to this Masters with the azaleas wiped out and Wednesday’s storms putting an early end to the Par 3 contest and with more wind forecast today, this instalment looks like rewarding resilience.
It had started with a poignant ceremonial tee off which saw Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player pay tribute to Arnold Palmer.
Nicklaus removed his cap and raised it to the skies before out-driving Player to launch the 81st Masters, the first for 60 years to be staged without the departed Palmer.
If The King was looking down he would have enjoyed some of the thrills and spills. But he would have preferred to have seen the World No 1 at work, rather than on his way home.