Johnson withdraws from The Masters without hitting a shot
Favourite injured after falling down stairs
Dustin Johnson withdrew from the Masters without hitting a shot, the world number one making a last-gasp decision that he would not be able to overcome the injury he sustained falling down stairs on the eve of the tournament.
Johnson warmed up gingerly on the driving range in preparation for playing in the final first-round threeball, and appeared set to start the event, but he realised it was impossible just minutes before he was expected on the first tee.
Johnson backers will get their stakes refunded with every bookmaker and there will be no rule four in the outright market.
Much of the first day of the Masters was dominated by speculation as to whether Johnson could shrug off the back injury and compete.
Bookmakers were scrambling to offer the best refund deals – Betfred, BoyleSports and Paddy Power promised to return stake money if the American superstar teed off and failed to complete 18 holes. In the end, all Johnson bets were voided.
Johnson’s sad demise left Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy dominating the betting. Spieth opened up with a level-par front-nine to lay a good foundation for the week on a breezy day when most of the field were struggling to break par, while McIlroy opened his round with a bogey.
Thomas Pieters, Andy Sullivan, Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose were the early pacesetters at two under par.
Pieters, top scorer in the Ryder Cup last year and one of the most promising youngsters in golf, could be backed at a standout 100-1 with Betfred for Masters glory.
The Belgian bomber, a general pre-tournament 66-1 chance, made a mockery of those quotes, though, by racing to the turn in four under par and picking up another birdie at the tenth.
Debutants have a poor Masters record, but Augusta first-timer Pieters took to the famous course like a duck to water. That was until he suffered in Amen Corner, bogeying the 11th and making double bogey at the 12th.
Two under par was still enough to retain a share of the lead at that stage.
Other players quickly gave themselves a mountain to climb to make the cut. Zach Johnson and Branden Grace made horror starts, while defending champion Danny Willett was three over par through two holes.