AUGUSTA • Top-ranked Dustin Johnson, uncertain (at press time) for the Masters after suffering a lower back injury in a "serious" fall, added more drama to the intense atmosphere ahead of yesterday's start at Augusta National.
The reigning US Open champion fell at his rented home on Wednesday afternoon, about 23 hours before his scheduled start in the final group at the year's first Major golf championship, according to his agent.
Johnson, the oddsmakers' favourite to claim the champion's Green Jacket after winning his past three tournaments, was scheduled to visit the PGA Tour's medical trailer for possible X-rays or an MRI exam.
The 32-year-old American was icing the injury and hopeful of being able to play.
Former Masters champions Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player struck the ceremonial opening tee shots to get the 81st edition of the year's first major off to a sombre start as they honoured Arnold Palmer, who died in September at the age of 87.
Thousands of golf fans wearing commemorative badges confirming their membership of "Arnie's Army" stood to attention during a poignant silence broken only by the sound of a chilled wind rustling through the trees.
Players teed off onto a rain-soaked course from overnight thunderstorms in cold and windy conditions, with gusts of up to 65kmh likely to play havoc with the world's greatest shotmakers for the first two days.
"It's going to be pretty tough - 20-30 miles per hour winds (about 30-50kmh) is not what we're used to around here," third-ranked Jason Day said. "Typically, I kind of like those tough conditions. I'm a grinder in that sense. I need to respect it more and not really be too aggressive."
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