The world's top-ranked golfer arrived two hours before he was scheduled to tee off, but withdrew just before beginning his round.

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Dustin Johnson arrived at Augusta National on quite a roll, having won his last three tournaments.

 

He never even took a shot at the first major of the year.

 

The world's No. 1-ranked player was forced to withdraw from the Masters on Thursday because of a lower back injury suffered less than 24 hours earlier in a freak fall at the home he was renting for the week.

 

"I want to play," Johnson said. "I just can't swing."

 

He certainly tried, arriving at the club about two hours before he was scheduled to tee off in the final group of the opening round with two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker.

 

Johnson took some easy swings on the practice range, headed back inside for additional treatment, and then broke out his longer irons and even the driver to see how the back reacted.

 

He was clearly in pain, rubbing his back several times and letting his caddie tee up the ball so he didn't have bend over. After an extended conversation with his coach, Butch Harmon, Johnson started walking toward the first tee.

 

His intention was to play.

 

His back wouldn't let him.

 

"It sucks," Johnson said. "I'm playing the best golf of my career. This is one of my favorite tournaments of the year. Then a freak accident happened (Wednesday) when I got back from the course. It sucks. It sucks really bad."

 

Johnson got as far as the putting green between the clubhouse and the first tee. After about a half-dozen putts, he pulled out an iron and took a few more half-hearted practice swings.

 

Walker and Watson headed toward the tee.

 

Johnson went the opposite way.

 

"I was doing everything I would to try to play," he said. "Last night, it was ice, heat, ice. I was up pretty much all night trying to get it ready for today. I had it worked on all morning. Obviously, I can make some swings. But I can't make my normal swing."

 

This Masters was over for Johnson before it even began, a stunning development that removed the favorite for the green jacket.

 

The accident occurred Wednesday after Johnson returned to his rental home from a morning practice session at Augusta National. On his way outside to move his car, and wearing only socks, he slipped on a short staircase.

 

"It would have been better if it was full set of stairs. I would have slid all the way down," Johnson said. "But there were only three steps. I landed on my left side. My left elbow is sore and bruised. My lower left back took the brunt of it."

 

He doesn't think the injury is serious.

 

In fact, if it had happened earlier in the week, he probably would've been able to play.

 

"I feel like in two days, I'll be fine," Johnson said.