The USGA has announced that 2016 Masters champion Danny Willett has withdrawn from the 2017 U.S. Open as a result of a back injury.
Willett opened Friday with a +9, so it’s unlikely he would have been around on the weekend anyway, but it’s still a bit of a surprise to see him withdrawing.
Willett’s come-from-behind Masters victory last year was one of the more surprising events in golf, but since then he’s struggled to retain anything close to a championship form. He finished in ties for 37th, 53rd and 79th in the final three majors last season. He missed the cut in the Masters this year, becoming the first defending champion to miss the cut since Mike Weir in 2004. Named to the Ryder Cup team in 2016, he was unable to notch even a single point in Europe’s loss to America, and he was forced to answer for his brother’s shots at American galleries.
In short, Willett’s rocky post-green jacket road clearly isn’t getting any smoother.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at email@example.com or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.