Masters under way, Johnson hopeful of recovering from injury

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He walked slowly toward the first hole, where he was paired with two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson and PGA Championship victor Jimmy Walker in the final group of the opening round.

"It sucks", Johnson said after deciding he couldn't play in the first major of the year.

Johnson, the heavy Masters favourite after winning his past three starts, went through a tentative warm-up routine and was on the practice putting green moments before his 4.03am tee time.

The American, twice a Masters runner-up, was five shots up on the final day a year ago when he imploded after taking seven shots on the par-3 12th.

The Masters should be the easiest to predict of golf's four major championships. He went over to the first tee, but before he teed off he withdrew. The original concept had as much to do with marketing because Palmer, Nicklaus and Player were managed by Mark McCormack at IMG and would travel the world competing in exhibitions.

After the opening ceremony, Nicklaus and Player made their way to the interview room in the lavish new media center, each wearing their green jacket with a button that said, "I Am a Member of Arnie's Army, Est". It looks something like single digits might win this tournament.

"There will be other "Big Threes, ' but I don't know if you'll ever have another 'Big Three" that will live together like we did", Player said.

As the sun began to bathe Augusta National Golf Club on Thursday morning, Jack Nicklaus stood on the first tee, removed his hat and looked to the sky to salute Arnold Palmer.

The tournament generates more than $100 million annually for the city and surrounding region, according to the OnGeorgia website, as an estimated 250,000 people who make the pilgrimage to Augusta each year open their wallets.

"I said to him when we left the practice tee, "just be honest with yourself".

The weather forecast for the region, socked by powerful storms two of the last three days, calls for cool, overcast skies and steady winds of 20-30 miles per hour, with gusts up to 40 miles per hour. "I can't make a normal swing".

"I've got a lot of confidence in my game right now, especially with the way I've been playing the last few tournaments", Johnson said Tuesday. "The issue is I just can't swing".

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