Woods' future uncertain

15-time Major winner awake, responsive after surgery for 'multiple leg injuries'

Above: Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies inspect the SUV of golfer Tiger Woods, who was involved in a single-vehicle accident near Los Angeles on Tuesday. Left: Woods' damaged car after rolling down the hillside.
Above: Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies inspect the SUV of golfer Tiger Woods, who was involved in a single-vehicle accident near Los Angeles on Tuesday. PHOTO: REUTERS
Above: Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies inspect the SUV of golfer Tiger Woods, who was involved in a single-vehicle accident near Los Angeles on Tuesday. Left: Woods' damaged car after rolling down the hillside.
Above: Woods' damaged car after rolling down the hillside.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LOS ANGELES • Police yesterday sought to determine what caused Tiger Woods to swerve off a Southern California road in his sport utility vehicle (SUV), hitting a tree and rolling down a hillside in a crash that left the golf great seriously injured.

The American was prised from the wreckage by rescue crews and rushed by ambulance from the scene of the crash on Tuesday on the outskirts of Los Angeles to nearby Harbour-UCLA Medical Centre suffering what his agent described as "multiple leg injuries".

A statement later posted on Woods' official Twitter account said he had undergone a "long surgical procedure" to his lower right leg and ankle and was "awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room".

Compound fractures of his tibia and fibula - the two bones of his leg below the knee - were stabilised with a rod, and screws and pins were used to stabilise additional injuries to his foot and ankle, Dr Anish Mahajan, chief medical officer of Harbour-UCLA, said.

He added that trauma to the muscle and other soft tissue of the leg "required surgical release of the covering of the muscles to relieve pressure due to swelling".

One of the world's most celebrated sports figures, the 15-time Major champion was the sole occupant of a dark grey 2021 Hyundai Genesis SUV when it crashed near the suburban communities of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said.

Deputies responding to the accident found no immediate indication that Woods had been under the influence of alcohol or drugs before losing control of his vehicle shortly after 7am, while weather was not considered a factor.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva, however, said the 45-year-old Woods, who was "lucid" following the accident, appeared to have been going faster than normal for a downhill, curving stretch of road known by locals to be hazardous.

He revealed that the car had "veered across the centre-divider of the road into an opposite traffic lane, striking a roadside curb and a tree as it careened over an embankment and there were several rollovers". Video footage from the scene showed that the vehicle was badly crumpled and Villanueva's deputy Carlos Gonzalez added that Woods was "fortunate to be alive".

He had hosted the PGA Tour's Genesis Invitational at the Riviera Country Club over the weekend but did not play - his last competitive appearance was at the Masters in November.

Golf Digest reported Woods had been seen with actress Jada Pinkett Smith, retired National Basketball Association star Dwyane Wade and comedian David Spade the day before the accident and was shooting a TV show segment with the celebrities. He was due to resume filming on Tuesday, while ESPN said that before the crash, the former world No. 1 had been running late to meet National Football League quarterbacks Drew Brees and Justin Herbert for a separate photo shoot.

The accident triggered a global outpouring of well-wishes from celebrities, politicians and fellow sports stars. His golfing peers were the most affected, with world No. 3 Justin Thomas saying he was "sick to my stomach".

"You know, it hurts to see one of your closest friends get in an accident," he said. "Man, I just hope he's all right. Just worry for his kids. I'm sure they're struggling."

Former world No. 1 Justin Rose added: "We know how tough you are, we've seen it a hundred times. Hoping and praying you're ok my friend."

Sports commentators have started to speculate that the crash could end the career of the greatest golfer of his generation.

Woods is the only modern professional to win all four Majors in succession, a feat known as the "Tiger Slam". But he has suffered years of injuries and undergone multiple procedures on both his back and knees.

He underwent his fifth back operation in December and only said last week there was no timetable for his return to competitive play.

Woods is now certain to miss the rest of the PGA Tour season, if not the year, and while the golf world has experienced what it is like without their biggest draw card during his many absences, an unsettling future awaits.

Almost since the moment he burst onto the professional scene in 1996, he has been the tide that raised all boats, a crossover star who drove TV ratings, purses and endorsements to spectacular heights.

Neal Pilson, the head of Pilson Communications and former president of CBS Sports, told Reuters: "I think he has lifetime exemptions at every Major event but I suspect we are probably not going to see Tiger in a competitive golf event going forward," he said. "If he doesn't play again, he will be missed for sure."

NYTIMES, REUTERS

  • Tiger's career timeline

  • 1997

    Woods, 21, won the first of 15 Major titles with a 12-stroke victory over Tom Kite at the Masters, making him both the youngest and the first black professional golfer to triumph at Augusta National. Two months later, he was ranked world No. 1 for the first time in his career.

    2000

    Completed a career Grand Slam by the age of 24, making him the youngest to win all four Majors and just the second to win three in a year.

    2001

    Won the second of his four Masters to become the first person to hold all four Majors simultaneously - the so-called "Tiger Slam".

    2008

    Won his 14th Major at the US Open despite playing with damaged knee cartilage and two stress fractures of the leg.

    2009

    Weeks after being involved in a bizarre car accident outside his home that ballooned into a sex scandal, Woods said in December that he was taking an indefinite break from golf after admitting that he had cheated on his wife Elin Nordegren.

    2010

    Made his return to professional golf with a fourth-placed finish at the Masters in April. In October, after a run of 281 weeks, Woods was unseated from the world No. 1 ranking by Lee Westwood, ending the record for most consecutive weeks in that position.

  • 2014

    A week before the Masters in April, Woods announced that he required back surgery, forcing him to withdraw from that year's opening Major for the first time since 1994. He returned to competition in July but the following month again injured his back.

    2017

    In April, he had the fourth back operation of his career and in May was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. He blamed the incident on a reaction to prescribed medication.

    2019

    In April, Woods completed one of sport's great comeback stories, ending an 11-year Majors drought by winning his fifth Masters and bringing his Majors total to 15 - three short of record holder Jack Nicklaus' tally. In October, Woods won the Zozo Championship in Japan to match Sam Snead's record of 82 PGA Tour victories.

    REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 25, 2021, with the headline 'Woods' future uncertain'. Subscribe