A shoeless Dustin Johnson falling down a small set of stairs and injuring his back on the eve of the first round of the Masters surely ranks as a freak, unfortunate incident.
But how freak and unfortunate was it? Perhaps you need to compare it to other bizarre golf injuries in recent memory to put it in its proper place. So from teeth brushing to soft beds to celebrations gone awfully awry, let’s take a look at other recent freak golf injuries to see where DJ, um, falls.
10. Phil Mickelson breaks his leg skiing
Look, people get injured skiing, even people who are among the best golfers on the planet. At just 23, Mickelson was off to a strong start to his 1994 season, with four top-10s and a win, but a tree at an Arizona ski mountain had other plans. Mickelson still has a rod in his left thigh from the impact, and it took another 10 years before he finally broke through to claim his first major.
Freak quotient (on a scale of 1 to 10): 4
9. Tiger Woods tweaks his back on soft hotel bed
Try to refrain from any sophomoric Tiger bed jokes, since this involved actual sleeping. Playing in the 2013 Barclays at Liberty National, Woods had to pull out of the Wednesday pro-am because he slept on a soft bed in his New York City hotel. It couldn’t have been so bad since Woods recovered to play the tournament, shot four rounds in the 60s and finished T-2.
Freak quotient: 4
8. Jim Furyk pulls a muscle brushing his teeth
You hear stories like this and you wonder if you’re really brushing hard enough. In reality, Furyk had just brushed his teeth and then threw back a pill, which caused a tweak in his neck that forced him to withdraw from the 2006 Buick Classic. He returned for the next week’s US Open, where he finished T-2.
Freak quotient: 6
7. Rory McIlroy ruptures ankle ligament kicking soccer ball
In addition to introducing worldwide golf fans to the unfamiliar phrase “kickabout”, McIlroy learned the hard way why he shouldn’t be mess with a soccer ball so close to a major, even if just knocking it around with friend. The ankle injury was particularly devastating given that the 2015 British Open was to be played at St Andrews, a course that set up perfectly for the Northern Irishman. But he couldn’t recover in time, and whether it’s a coincidence or not, he hasn’t won a major since.
Freak quotient: 7
6. Dustin Johnson injures back lifting a jet ski
As the story goes, Johnson had tweaked his back earlier in the 2012 season, but that makes his decision to lift a jet ski near his Florida home all the more confounding. The back injury caused Johnson to withdraw from that year’s Masters, which could be considered a crushing blow, but not as bad as well, you know.
Freak quotient: 7
5. Robert Garrigus fist pumps too hard, hurts shoulder
Garrigus didn’t miss any golf as a result, but the excessive fist pumping after holing an eagle putt to close his third round at the 2011 Tournament of Champions still left him stiff for the next day, when he lost in a playoff to Jonathan Byrd. “I hadn’t fist-pumped like that in a long time,” Garrigus said. “I overdid it. It just didn’t loosen up at all today.”
Freak quotient: 8
4. Skip Kendall cuts bagel clumsily
In 2003, Kendall had pulled a bagel out of the freezer and tried to cut it. It didn’t go well. “It was a very sharp knife. I was trying to be so careful but unfortunately, the bagel got cut in half, but half of my finger was laying on the cutting board as well,” Kendall said. The golfer only missed two weeks, but was forced to temporarily change his grip from an overlap to an interlocking grip.
Freak quotient: 8
3. Thomas Levet breaks shin jumping into a lake after French Open win
At least Levet had just won a tournament. But it did cost him the 2011 British Open that followed. “We’re lucky it was only a leg injury,” Levet said. There would be more to come, as Levet suffered another weird injury months later when he broke a rib slipping down a small staircase at a tournament in South Africa.
Freak quotient: Combining both, 9
2. Brandt Jobe slices fingers in sweeping injury
We’re certainly not making light of it, since the whole thing is pretty awful. In 2006, Jobe was sweeping in his garage when the handle of the broom shattered and sliced off the tips of two fingers. He had to pick the two tips off the floor and put them in ice, and had them reattached at the hospital. He didn’t play a full season on the US PGA Tour for five years.
Freak quotient: 9
1. Dustin Johnson falls down stairs at his rental home, withdraws from Masters
We’ve given it plenty of thought, and while it’s not as embarrassing as say, breaking your ankle in a celebratory plunge, or tweaking your neck brushing your teeth, the sheer confluence of bad luck, happening on the eve of a major you’re favoured to win makes this the unofficial freakiest golf injury in recent memory. We realise this was not the title DJ was looking to finish the week with. But he owns a piece of history nonetheless.
Freak quotient: 10