Dustin Johnson in practice before falling down stairs at home.
Dustin Johnson in practice before falling down stairs at home. Charlie Riedel

Stairs fall puts favourite in doubt for Masters

MASTERS favourite Dustin Johnson has taken a serious fall on a staircase and injured his lower back, and his manager said it was uncertain whether the world's No. 1 golfer would be able to play.

It was a stunning development on an otherwise quiet day at Augusta National, where the course was shut down at 1:30pm because of storms.

The real calamity struck a few hours later.

David Winkle, his manager at Hambric Sports, said Johnson fell on the stairs at the home he is renting in Augusta.

"He landed very hard on his lower back and is now resting, although quite uncomfortably," Winkle said.

"He has been advised to remain immobile and begin a regiment of anti-inflammatory medication and icing, with the hope of being able to play tomorrow."

What might help Johnson is that he is in the last group for the opening round, scheduled to tee off at 2:03pm (local time) with two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and PGA champion Jimmy Walker.

Johnson has had his share of mishaps in a major but not before a major even started.

On Tuesday, Winkle described Johnson as being "in as good a shape as I've ever seen him in every aspect of his game and his life."

Johnson has won three straight tournaments - including a pair of World Golf Championships - heading into the Masters.

Two years ago, Rory McIlroy ruptured ligaments in his ankle a few weeks before he was to defend his title in the 2015 British Open when he was No. 1 in the world.

But this was different.

Johnson was at Augusta National on Wednesday to play nine holes before the first wave of storms moved in.

He was a strong favourite to become the first player since Tiger Woods in 2002 to win the Masters at No. 1 in the world.

Winkle said he would not have any further comment until he knew more about Johnson's condition.

Doctors have advised Johnson to remain stable and start taking anti-inflammatory medication.

Winkle says Johnson hopes to be able to play in the Masters when it starts Thursday night (EST).