Johnson recovered from Augusta fall, tempers expectations

By Andrew Both
Apr 6, 2017; Augusta, GA, USA; Dustin Johnson on the practice range during the first round of The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Michael Madrid-USA TODAY Sports

By Andrew Both

WILMINGTON, North Carolina (Reuters) - Dustin Johnson said on Wednesday he has recovered from the back injury that ruled him out of the last month's U.S. Masters but is not sure what to expect in his competitive return at this week's Wells Fargo Championship.

The American world number one, who withdrew from the year's first major only moments before his opening round a day after a freak fall down a staircase in his rental home, said he has not been able to practise much since the incident.

"I've had a lot more time off than I would have liked. Still feel like I'm swinging really well, hit a few good shout out there today, but we'll just have to see," Johnson, who was playing the best golf of his life and was favoured to triumph at Augusta National, told a sparsely-attended news conference.

"I haven't played ... any competitive rounds since, what, six weeks ago."

Johnson, who will tee off with compatriots Davis Love III and Bill Haas at Eagle Point in Thursday's opening round, said he was diagnosed only with bruising to his lower back after his fall four weeks ago.

"I had an MRI. It was clear, no issues, but bruised, bruised it really bad," said Johnson. "It took about three weeks (to recover). Last Friday probably was the first day I hit balls and didn’t feel it."

Before his injury, Johnson had separated himself from his peers with a mixture of power, precision and poise that nobody could match over a three-tournament span as he posted a trio of victories, including two World Golf Championships events.

He tried to play the Masters less than 24 hours after his fall, even hitting some shots at the driving range, but pulled out after walking to the first tee where he decided it was a lost cause.

But among the 2016 U.S. Open champion's talents is a seeming ability not to stew over things such as the missed opportunity to win a Green Jacket when he was at the top of his game.

"Crazy things happen," said Johnson. "The only time it was maybe tough (not playing) was just watching the tournament (on TV), but after Sunday it was fine."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)