Dustin Johnson entered the Masters as the odds-on-favorite to don a green jacket, but he withdrew from the competition on day one. The No. 1-ranked player in the world suffered a lower-back injury last Wednesday, this after falling down the steps of his rental home near Augusta National. Johnson, 32, tried to give it a go, but he was in too much pain.
Some wonder if Johnson withdrew for other reasons. Nick Faldo does not.
“He couldn’t even tee it up,” the CBS broadcaster and six-time major winner said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “He couldn’t make a swing. If you bruise something close to your spine, there’s no way you can twist to get your impact. At Augusta, you play so many shots at a downhill (angle), so you need extra twist and extra clearance to get out of the way. Plus, he’s pretty finely tuned. So no, there’s no way anybody’s going to go, ‘Well, I don’t want to play the Masters.’ He was the top favorite, he was playing great, he was relaxed – he just wanted to go and play. I can’t believe anyone would think he would forfeit that for some other reason.”
Jordan Spieth, meanwhile, was in the mix Sunday but had a subpar showing on 12 for the second straight year.
“You have to learn how to deal with these things,” said Faldo, a three-time Masters champion. “You learn how to deal with them. You come back and deem it as a new challenge. Last year was a poor swing. He knows that. He came better prepared this time. I really thought he was going to be the pace-setter. He had such great intensity all week. I thought he was going to go and shoot a 66 at 10-under and be the guy (everybody’s) chasing, but he had a rotten day, which, it just shows you: When everything is on the line at Augusta, it is an unbelievably difficult golf course.”
Ultimately, the 2017 Masters will be remembered for Sergio Garcia’s heart-stopping win. The 37-year-old Spaniard – known for collapses and near-misses – beat Justin Rose in a playoff Sunday to capture his first major in 74 tries.
“Maybe he was saying, ‘Hey, this is the eleventh hour of my career. If I’m going to do it, this may be the one and only time I’m going to do this. Here’s an opportunity,’” Faldo said. “He pulled off some great shots.”