Golfer Tiger Woods was seriously injured when his SUV crashed into a median, rolled over and ended up on its side near a steep road in suburban Los Angeles known for wrecks, authorities said.
The golf superstar had to be pulled out through the windshield.
Woods underwent surgery to repair “significant orthopaedic injuries” to his lower right leg and ankle, which included the insertion of a rod into his tibia and the use of “a combination of screws and pins” to stabilise his foot and ankle, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center chief medical officer, Anish Mahajan, said in a statement released on the golfer’s Twitter account late Tuesday.
“He is currently awake, responsive, and recovering in his hospital room,” the Twitter statement read, adding there would be no further updates, and thanking first responders and well-wishers.
Woods was alone in the SUV on Tuesday (February 23) when it crashed into a raised median, crossed two oncoming lanes and rolled several times, authorities said at a news conference. No other cars were involved.
The 45-year-old was alert and able to communicate as firefighters pried open the front windshield to get him out. The airbags went off and the inside of the vehicle stayed basically intact, and that gave him a cushion to survive the crash, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.
They said there was no immediate evidence that Woods was impaired. Authorities said they checked for any odour of alcohol or other signs he was under the influence of a substance and found none. They didn’t say how fast he was driving.
The crash happened on a sweeping, downhill stretch of a two-lane road through upscale Los Angeles suburbs. Sheriffs Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who was the first to get to the wreck, said he sometimes catches people topping 80 mph in the 45 mph zone and crashes are common.
“I will say that it’s very fortunate that Mr Woods was able to come out of this alive,” Gonzalez said.
When the deputy arrived, a neighbour told him the driver was still in the vehicle. Gonzalez said he poked his head through a hole in the windshield and saw Woods with his seatbelt on. The deputy asked Woods questions, including what day it was and where he was.
“Tiger was able to speak to me lucidly,” Gonzalez said. Woods appeared incredibly calm, the deputy said, likely because he was in shock.
“On behalf of the PGA Tour and our players, Tiger is in our prayers and will have our full support as he recovers,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement.
News of the crash spread rapidly around the sports world and beyond, with figures inside and outside golfing swift to send their prayers and best wishes to Woods.
Skier Lindsey Vonn, Woods’ former girlfriend, tweeted: “Praying for TW right now.”
“Sending my prayers to @TigerWoods and his family tonight — here’s to a speedy recovery for the GOAT of golf,” said former US president Barack Obama.
Fellow ex-president Donald Trump, speaking to Fox, urged Woods to “get better and get out there because we all miss him.”
Woods was in Los Angeles over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, where he presented the trophy on Sunday. He was to spend Monday and Tuesday filming with Discovery-owned GOLFTV, with whom he has an endorsement. A tweet on Monday showed Woods in a cart smiling with comedian David Spade.
According to Golf Digest, also owned by Discovery, the TV shoot was on-course lessons for celebrities, such as Spade and Dwyane Wade, at Rolling Hills Country Club.
Woods, a 15-time major champion who shares with Sam Snead the PGA Tour record of 82 career victories, has been recovering from December 23 surgery on his lower back. It was his fifth back surgery and first since his lower spine was fused in April 2017, allowing him to stage a remarkable comeback that culminated with his fifth Masters title in 2019.
He has carried the sport since his record-setting Masters victory in 1997 when he was 21, winning at the most prolific rate in modern PGA Tour history. He is singularly responsible for TV ratings spiking, which has led to enormous increases in prize money during his career. Even at 45, he remains the biggest draw in the sport.
This is the third time Woods has been involved in a car investigation. The most notorious was the early morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree. That was the start of shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with multiple women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorships, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi and did not return to golf for five months.
In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road. He was arrested on a DUI charge and said later he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods later pleaded guilty to reckless driving.
Woods hasn’t won since the Zozo Championship in Japan in fall 2019, and he’s reduced his playing schedule in recent years because of injuries. Tuesday’s surgery would be his 10th. Besides his back surgeries, he’s had four surgeries on his left knee, including a major reconstruction after he won the 2008 US Open.