Dustin Johnson withdraws from Masters after falling down stairs

Dustin Johnson speaks to the media after withdrawing from MastersDustin Johnson made it all the way to the first tee before deciding he wasn’t fit to compete in the 2017 Masters. The world’s top-ranked golfer is dealing with a lower back injury he suffered Wednesday after falling down a small staircase at the house he rented for the tournament.

Johnson was initially optimistic when he arrived at the course Thursday to prepare for the opening round, but his warm-up revealed his injuries were too much to overcome. He was scheduled to tee off in the final group of the day alongside Bubba Watson and Jimmy Walker, but Johnson retired to the clubhouse before his round began.

"I can't swing full," Johnson told ESPN after deciding to withdraw. "I can't make a normal swing.”

Johnson expects to be fully recovered by the end of the weekend, making the timing of the injury worse than the ailment itself. Former Masters champion Tiger Woods also withdrew from the tournament—for the third time in four years—due to ongoing concerns with his back, which has limited him to just three competitive rounds this year.

Along with being the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world, Johnson looked set to win his first Masters title following a hot start to the PGA season. The 32-year-old won his last three tournaments and finished third at Pebble Beach early in February, giving him a better two-month stretch leading into the tournament than any other participant.

Johnson’s absence provides a boost to other top contenders like Rory McIlroy or Jordan Spieth. McIlroy has won the U.S. Open, the British Open, and the PGA Championship, but his trophy case is still missing the iconic green jacket given to Masters winners. Spieth won the Masters in 2015 and finished second in 2014 and 2016.

Charley Hoffman has the early lead with a 7-under 65 in the first round, with William McGirt four strokes behind at 3-under and Lee Westwood at 2-under. McIlroy is in the hunt at even-par, while Spieth finished 3-over after shooting a quadruple bogey on the 15th hole.