LOS ANGELES (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - Golfing champion Tiger Woods was hospitalised in Los Angeles on Tuesday (Feb 23) with multiple injuries suffered when his car veered off a road and rolled down a steep hillside, requiring rescue crews to extricate him from the wreckage, authorities said.
Woods’ injuries were not believed to be life threatening, ESPN reported, citing police sources, despite video footage from the crash scene showing his dark grey Genesis sport utility vehicle badly crumpled and lying on its side near the bottom of the slope, windows smashed.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told a news conference that the golfer was conscious and “able to communicate” when rescue personnel arrived.
He added that there was no evidence of impairment when Woods was assessed by emergency workers at the scene, and that no blood samples were drawn by investigators after he was rushed by ambulance to the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
Woods was traveling on a winding, downhill road that has been the scene of frequent accidents, Villanueva noted. There are indications that the golfer was travelling at a “relatively greater speed than normal,” he said.
Citing law-enforcement sources, the Los Angeles Times said his car crossed the centre divider after Woods lost control of the SUV, a Genesis GV80. The vehicle rolled over multiple times. It also hit a sign and a tree before coming to a stop in the brush.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said the athlete suffered serious injuries to both legs and that he was initially listed in serious but stable condition. CNN reported he suffered compound fractures to both of his legs.
Carlos Gonzales, a sheriff’s deputy who was the first to reach the wreck, described Woods as “calm and lucid,” and said he recognised the golf great after Woods told the officer his name was “ Tiger". He noted that the player was wearing a seatbelt and the car's airbags had been deployed. Woods was not able to stand on his own.
Woods, 45, a 15-time Grand Slam champion and one of the most celebrated figures in the world of sports, was the sole occupant of the car when it crashed at about 7.12am near the suburban communities of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a written statement.
“Tiger Woods was in a single-car accident this morning in California where he suffered multiple leg injuries. He is currently in surgery and we thank you for your privacy and support,” Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, said in a statement given to Golf Digest journalist Daniel Rapaport.
Sheriff’s deputy Joana Warren told Reuters the vehicle had ran off the roadway and rolled down the hillside before coming to rest near the bottom.
The sheriff’s department initially said a rescue tool known as “the jaws of life” was used to pry Woods from the wreckage.
But Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman Christopher Thomas later told Reuters that emergency personnel actually pulled Woods from the vehicle through the front windshield after the glass frame was cut away and removed.
Woods’ success on the greens transformed him into a worldwide superstar, ushering in an era of multimillion-dollar endorsements and lucrative appearance money and spread the sport to an audience far beyond its traditional image of male, white and middle-class.
He also served as a major influence on the modern generation of golfers such as Australian world No. 1 Jason Day, who has said he read a book about Woods and decided to copy the American’s high work ethic.
Woods, whose career has been hampered in recent years by back injuries and underwent his fifth back surgery in December, hosted the PGA Tour’s annual Genesis Invitational at the Riviera Country Club over the weekend but did not compete. Genesis, Hyundai Motor Co.’s luxury division, is the sponsor of the PGA Tour tournament.
Before the crash, Woods was participating in a two-day shoot for Golf Digest/GOLFTV, according to the publication. It involved him giving golf lessons to celebrities, such as NBA star Dwyane Wade and actor David Spade, at the Rolling Hills Country Club.
The first day of the shoot was Monday, Golf Digest said. Woods never arrived at the course for the second day.
'Praying for TW'
News that Woods, the greatest golfer of his generation, had been injured in a serious car wreck sent shockwaves through the sports world.
“Praying for my brother @TigerWoods as we all anxiously await more news,” former baseball star Alex Rodriguez said on Twitter. “Thinking of him and his entire family.”
“I am sick to my stomach,” fellow PGA Tour golfer Justin Thomas said during a news conference in which he called Woods one of his closest friends. “I just hope he’s alright.”
Former Woods girlfriend, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, tweeted simply: “Praying for TW”
The PGA Tour issued a statement from Commissioner Jay Monahan. “We are awaiting further information when he comes out of surgery. On behalf of the PGA TOUR and our players, Tiger is in our prayers and will have our full support as he recovers.”
Former US President Donald Trump, who has played golf with Woods on several occasions and awarded him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019, issued a statement urging Woods to get well soon, adding: “You are a true champion!”
California-born Eldrick “Tiger” Woods turned professional in 1996 and won his first US Tour title in only his fifth start. Since then, he has virtually redefined the game.
Woods held the top spot in professional golf’s world rankings for a record total of 683 weeks, winning 14 major championship titles between 1997 and 2008.
After a series of injuries and personal issues derailed his career at times, Woods claimed his 15th major title at the Masters in 2019, his fifth time earning the coveted green jacket given to Masters champions.
His 15 major titles stands second only to the record 18 won by Jack Nicklaus.