Dustin Johnson admits there is no avoiding the memories of last year’s painful withdrawal as he tries to become the first world number one since 2002 to win the Masters.
Johnson was the pre-tournament favourite 12 months ago after winning his previous three events, only to suffer a back injury after slipping on a small set of stairs in his rented house on the Wednesday afternoon.
The former US Open champion completed a warm-up on the range ahead of the first round under the watchful eye of coach Butch Harmon and looked set to compete, only to suddenly leave the first tee and head back into the clubhouse.
“I get asked about it every day out here on the range or walking down the fairway,” Johnson said. “I’m reminded all the time. It is what it is.
“It was kind of just a freak thing and it happened. There’s nothing I can do about it except I’m here this year, hopefully I can tee it up on Thursday, and I’ll definitely be looking forward to that.
“Coming into last year obviously I was playing very well and it was very disappointing not to be able to play, but it was a year ago so a lot of things have happened since then. I’m always excited to come back here and play. I feel like the game is in really good shape and got a lot of confidence coming into here this week.
“I know what it takes to get it done in a major, and it’s never easy. I’ve been in this situation quite a few times where I’ve had a chance to win, and no matter what you do or how you prepare, it’s not easy to win. This week’s going to be no different.
“My preparation’s been very good though leading into this week. I came up here last Tuesday, Wednesday and got a couple good practice rounds in and then came back up Sunday and started my prep again.”
The first of Johnson’s three straight wins in 2017 took him to world number one for the first time and he has stayed there ever since.
But the 33-year-old’s position at the top of the rankings is under threat from US PGA champion Justin Thomas, who can replace his fellow American in top spot with solo fifth place or better if Johnson misses the cut.
“I try not to think about it too much, especially if I’m on the golf course because it doesn’t really matter,” Johnson said of his ranking position. “But sometimes I’ll sit and think about it. It’s a pretty big accomplishment and I’m definitely proud of myself for making it to number one, but most importantly I want to stay here. To do that I got to keep pushing myself and keep working hard.”
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