famous injuries in golf

Broken Boxy and Angry Olazabal: What are golf’s most memorable major injuries?

Jon Rahm has become the latest name on the list of memorable figures to withdraw from a major championship in recent years. Here are the others…


Jon Rahm withdrew from the 2024 US Open on the Tuesday of tournament week after suffering from an infection in his foot.

Having withdrawn from LIV Golf Houston the week before, Rahm travelled to Pinehurst in North Carolina intending to play in the event he won in 2021. He arrived with plasters on his toes where he told the media the infection had appeared.

“Oh, it’s a concern. It’s doing better. It’s doing better. But definitely still in pain,” he said before making a statement a matter of hours later.

“We’ve been trying to figure it out because I think that the closest term would be a lesion on the skin. If I were to show you, it’s a little low in between my pinky toe and the next toe. I don’t know how or what happened, but it got infected. The pain was high. On the Saturday round, Saturday morning, I did get a shot to numb the area.”

“After consulting with numerous doctors and my team, I have decided it is best for my long-term health, to withdraw from this week’s US Open Championship. To say I’m disappointed is a massive understatement!” he said in the statement on social media.

“I wish all my peers the best of luck and want to thank all of the USGA staff, volunteers and community of Pinehurst for hosting and putting on what I’m sure will be an amazing championship! Hopefully, I’ll be back in action sooner than later!”

Off the back of the Spaniard’s withdrawal from the third major of the 2024 season, we take a look back at some of the most famous injuries in golf in the lead-up to and during major championships from years gone by.

famous injuries in golf

ALSO: Pinehurst No 2 uncovered: What will the US Open players face?

Famous injuries in golf

Rory McIlroy – 2015 Open Championship

At the start of July 2015, Rory McIlroy announced that he wouldn’t be able to defend the Claret Jug at St Andrews after injuring his ankle playing football.

Having won The Open at Royal Liverpool 12 months before, the Northern Irishman was unable to recover in time to play at the home of golf.

“After much consideration, I have decided not to play in the Open Championship at St. Andrews,” McIlroy said in a statement. “I’m taking a long-term view of this injury and, although rehab is progressing well, I want to come back to tournament play when I feel 100 per cent healthy and 100 per cent competitive.”

“Thank you for all your support and best wishes. I hope to be back on the course as soon as I can.”

Dustin Johnson – 2017 Masters

Dustin Johnson arrived for his Thursday tee time at the 2017 Masters, but he couldn’t hit a shot due to a back injury. The then-World No.1 took a serious fall on a staircase in his Augusta rental home on Wednesday, as per a statement by his agent David Winkle and the pain was too much for him to compete.

“He landed very hard on his lower back and is now resting, although quite uncomfortably,” the statement said. “He has been advised to remain immobile and begin a regimen of anti-inflammatory medication and icing, with the hope of being able to play tomorrow.”

At this stage, Johnson still hadn’t won the Masters and had to wait to win the Green Jacket in 2020.

famous injuries in golf

ALSO: The full list of US Open winners

Tiger Woods – 2014 Masters

Unfortunately, Tiger Woods has been no stranger to absences caused by injuries during his career. In 2014, he withdrew from the Honda Classic with back spasms and pain, and he also pulled out of the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

He had surgery on a pinched nerve and he couldn’t play in the Masters which was won by Bubba Watson. This was the first Masters he hadn’t played in since 1994. In August, he withdrew from the WGC Bridgestone Invitational as well.

His withdrawal from the 2014 Masters started a run in which he only played at the tournament once through to 2017 and only three more times through to 2020.

Colin Montgomerie – 2003 Open Championship

Colin Montgomerie was forced out of the Open Championship in 2003 at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich after the suffered a freak hand injury in the opening round.

“I couldn’t believe it was raining and as I looked up I tripped over a step and fell nastily,” he said. He had tripped over a step at breakfast and he was unable to continue.

As many of us are aware, Monty never did win that major title. Ben Curtis would win the Claret Jug in 2003 in southeast Kent after capitalising on Thomas Bjorn’s infamous bunker blunder on the par-3 16th hole.

famous injuries in golf

ALSO: Exclusive: Rewinding to the 1994 US Open with Ernie, Monty and Loren Roberts

Richard Boxall – 1991 Open Championship

Richard Boxall, now a Sky Sports commentator, was two shots off the lead halfway through the 1991 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

He had experienced “twinges” in his leg in practice rounds in the build-up to playing, and once he reached the 9th tee on Saturday, Boxall hit a 1-iron and collapsed in a heap.

He had bizarrely broken his leg. “I hit 1-iron and as I did there was this noise like a sack of potatoes splitting and I screamed and collapsed,” he said.

Jose Maria Olazabal – 1999 US Open

Jon Rahm is not the only Spaniard to have withdrawn from the US Open at Pinehurst. Jose Maria Olazabal broke his hand after shooting five-over par in the first round 25 years ago.

The European Ryder Cup legend and two-time Masters champion punched a wall in his hotel room and broke a bone in his hand, leading to a rather embarrassing way to pull out of the event.

The US Open of that year became a memorable and historic one that saw Payne Stewart overcome Phil Mickelson in a battle for the ages.

famous injuries in golf

NOW READ: The history of the US Open

How many of these famous injuries in golf do you remember? What other famous golf injuries do you remember? Tell us on X!

Matt Chivers

Matt Chivers

Now on the wrong side of 25, Matt has been playing golf since the age of 13 and was largely inspired to take up the game by countless family members who played golf during his childhood.

Matt is a member at Royal Cinque Ports in Deal playing off a 5 handicap, just a pitching wedge away from his hometown of Dover where he went to school and grew up. He has previously been a member at Etchinghill and Walmer and Kingsdown in Kent.

Having studied history at the University of Liverpool, Matt went on to pass his NCTJ Exams in Manchester a year later to fulfil his lifelong ambition of becoming a journalist. He picked up work experience along the way at places such as the Racing Post, the Independent, Sportsbeat and the Lancashire Evening Post.

Matt joined NCG in February 2023 and is the website’s main source of tour news, features and opinion. He has reported live from events such as The Open, the Ryder Cup and The Players Championship, having also interviewed and spoken to the likes of Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Lee Westwood, Graeme McDowell, Henrik Stenson, to name just a few.

Consuming tour golf on what is a 24/7 basis, you can come to Matt for informed views on the game and the latest updates on the PGA Tour, DP World Tour, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour and LIV Golf.

What’s in Matt’s bag: Cobra LTDx LS driver, Cobra LTDx 3-wood, TaylorMade P7MC irons, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, Odyssey putter.

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