Tiger Woods was in the driver’s seat of a mutilated SUV that rolled over and ended up on its side on a steep pavement in suburban Los Angeles on Tuesday morning, seatbelt still fastened, both legs seriously injured.
He was lucid enough to give his name – “Tiger” – to the deputy sheriff who had poked his head through a hole in the windshield.
“At that point, I clicked in my mind and immediately recognized him as Tiger Woods,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez said Tuesday.
The one-car crash was another setback for Woods, the preeminent golfer of his generation who has spent the past decade in a cycle of injuries, self-inflicted personal issues and a DUI arrest. Each time, he came back to the course and won.
Even at 45, Woods is among the world’s most recognizable sports figures and is the biggest draw in the sport. His victory at the 2019 Masters was seen as a transcendent comeback and further bolstered his reputation for robustness and clutch performance. On Tuesday briefly, the world came to a halt and feared that Woods was seriously injured or worse. As it became clear that his life was not in danger, the obvious question arose: can he play golf again?
“Like his body hasn’t held up enough,” said Jon Rahm, world No. 2, of the Workday Championship in Florida. “I just hope he can be released from the hospital after his recovery and can still play with his children and lead a normal life.”
His agent said Woods had undergone surgery on his leg and the injuries were described as serious. No charges were laid, with police saying there was no evidence he was weakened and no one else was injured.
It was the 10th surgery for Woods, who has suffered from knee, back and neck problems for more than a decade.
Woods was in Los Angeles this weekend to host the Genesis Invitational tournament which ended on Sunday and then to film content from his sponsor, GOLFTV, owned by Discovery. He was not playing while recovering from a fifth back surgery on December 23.
Woods was alone in the SUV when it crashed into an elevated median, crossed two oncoming lanes and rolled over several times, authorities said at a press conference. Police said Woods was alert and able to communicate when firefighters forced open the front windshield to get him out.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the airbags did deploy and the SUV’s interior remained largely intact, “giving it a cushion to survive the crash.”
There was no immediate evidence that Woods was weakened. Authorities said they checked for any alcohol smell or other signs that he was under the influence of a substance and found none. They didn’t say how fast he was driving.
The accident happened at around 7:15 a.m. on a long downhill section of a two-lane highway passing through upscale suburbs. Gonzalez, the first to get to the wreckage, said he occasionally caught people exceeding 80 mph in the 45 mph zone and accidents were common.
“I will say it’s very lucky that Mr. Woods was able to come out alive,” Gonzalez said.
Thoughts and prayers have come from everywhere – Jack Nicklaus and Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, and former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, who golfed with Woods and awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019.
Woods, who shares the PGA Tour record of 82 career victories with Sam Snead, had told the Genesis Invitational TV show that he was awaiting another test of his microdiscectomy surgery on December 23 before knowing if he could. expand its work. Asked about the possibility of playing at the Masters April 8-11, Woods replied, “God, I hope so.”
Woods has worn the sport since his record-breaking Masters victory in 1997 when he was 21, winning at the most prolific pace in PGA Tour history. He is solely responsible for the surge in television viewing, which has led to huge increases in prize money.
He was concerned that he would never play again before the lower spine fusion surgery in April 2017. He returned a year later and won the 2018 Circuit Championship.
It was his first major in 11 years. The previous one was the 2008 US Open at Torrey Pines, on a left leg with ragged knee ligaments and a double stress fracture. He underwent reconstructive surgery a few days later.
Woods last played on December 20 in the PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida, an unofficial event where players are matched with parents or children. He played with his son, Charlie, who is now 12 years old. Woods also has a 13-year-old daughter, Samantha.
The news put the brakes on the world golf championship in Florida, where Woods was eligible to play.
“My stomach hurts,” said Justin Thomas, world No. 3 and among the young players Woods embraced. “It hurts to see one of my closest friends have an accident. Dude, I just hope he’s okay.
This is the third time Woods has been involved in an auto investigation. Most notorious was the early morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, when his SUV hit a fire hydrant and hit a tree. It was the start of shocking revelations that he had cheated on his wife with several women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorships, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi, and didn’t return to golf for five months.
In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep while driving a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road. He was arrested for DUI and later said he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medication for his back pain. Woods then pleaded guilty to reckless driving and showed up at a clinic for help with prescription drugs and a sleep disorder.
Woods has not won since the Zozo Championship in Japan in the fall of 2019 and he has reduced his playing schedule in recent years due to injuries. Besides his back surgeries, he underwent four surgeries on his left knee, including a major reconstruction after winning the 2008 US Open.
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