Despite a back injury that prevented Dustin Johnson from teeing it up in the biggest tournament of the year, the world No. 1 plans to play back-to-back-to-back tournaments next month.
Johnson made it to the first tee but then withdrew from the Masters last week after infamously falling down a flight of stairs the day before. The fall resulted in a back injury that ultimately cost him a chance at his first green jacket.
While feeling “quite sore” a week after the tumble, according to his agent David Winkle, Johnson is sticking to his previously planned schedule of tournaments. The aggressive slate features the Wells Fargo Championship (May 4-7), the Players Championship, and the AT&T Byron Nelson in consecutive weeks.
After withdrawing from the Masters last week, Johnson had this to say about the limitations his back injury imposed on his game:
“The backswing was fine, I could make a good backswing, but every time down, like right at impact, it would just catch. I just don’t feel like there was any chance of me even competing.”
A healthy back is critical to Johnson’s signature strength–driving the ball. The 32-year old ranks third in the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, and second in driving distance (316.2).
If three tournaments in a row seems like a heavy load for someone with a bad back, consider that a healthy Johnson withdrew from the Shell Houston Open at the beginning of April citing the need for rest. The Houston Open would have been just the second-consecutive tournament for Johnson, although it followed a week of seven competitive rounds after winning the WGC Match Play Championship the week prior. Johnson has not played in consecutive events since the middle of February.
Coming off victories in his last three starts, it’s no surprise that Johnson is itching to keep the momentum going on the course. With two of the year’s biggest tournaments, the Players Championship and the U.S. Open on the horizon, who can blame him?
As much as DJ wants to get back out there, the fans want to see the World No. 1 in the biggest tournaments just as bad. But, if Tiger Woods’ injury timeline is any indication, back injuries can linger much longer than players let on.
Tiger’s injury timeline:
Nobody has held the top spot in the Official World Golf Rankings for more than a year since Rory McIlroy in 2014. If Johnson, who gained the No. 1 ranking in February, rushes back before he is healthy, there’s a good chance that trend will continue.