LOS ANGELES: In a career filled with remarkable comebacks, Tiger Woods faces his toughest recovery of all.
Woods was driving through a sweeping, downhill stretch of road through coastal suburbs of Los Angeles when his SUV struck a sign, crossed over a raised median and two oncoming lanes before it toppled down an embankment, coming to a halt on its side.
The airbags deployed. A sheriff’s deputy poked his head through a hole in the windshield to see Woods, still wearing his seatbelt, sitting in the driver’s seat.
The crash caused significant injuries all down his right leg that featured rods, pins and screws during what was described as a “long surgical procedure” at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
Anish Mahajan, the chief medical officer, said Woods shattered tibia and fibula bones on his right leg in multiple locations. Those were stabilised by a rod in the tibia. He said a combination of screws and pins were used to stabilise additional injuries in the ankle and foot.
A statement on his Twitter account said he was “awake, responsive and recovering”.
“I will say that it’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” said Carlos Gonzalez, the deputy from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who was the first on the scene after a neighbour called 911.
“As if his body hasn’t endured enough,” Jon Rahm, the No. 2 player in the world, said from the Workday Championship in Florida. “I just hope he can get out of the hospital after recovery and he can still play with his kids and have a normal life.”
The single-car crash was the latest setback for Woods, who at times has looked unstoppable on the golf course with his 15 major championships and record-tying 82 victories on the PGA Tour. He is among the most recognisable sports figures in the world, and at 45 with a reduced schedule from nine previous surgeries, remains golf’s biggest draw.
He won the 2008 US Open with shredded knee ligaments and two stress fractures in his left leg. His personal life imploded on Thanksgiving weekend in 2009 when he was caught having multiple extramarital affairs, and he returned to win his 11th award as PGA Tour player of the year and reach number one ranking.
And then after four back surgeries that kept him out of golf for the better part of two years, he won the Masters in April 2019 for the fifth time, a victory that ranks among the great comebacks in the sport.
Now it’s no longer a matter of when he plays again — the Masters is seven weeks away — but if he plays again.
No charges were filed, and police said there was no evidence he was impaired.
Woods was in Los Angeles over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club. Monday and Tuesday had been set aside for Discovery-owned GOLFTV for Woods to give playing tips to celebrities. A tweet Monday showed him in a cart at Rolling Hills Country Club with comedian David Spade. He also worked with NBA great Dwyane Wade, who posted a video to his Instagram account.
Woods was headed to Rolling Hills on Tuesday when the accident happened.
Thoughts and prayers have come from everywhere Jack Nicklaus and Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, and former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Woods played golf with both of them, and Trump awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019 after perhaps his great triumph the Masters after he had gone through four back surgeries.
Woods had a fifth back surgery, a microdiscectomy, on December 23, just three days after he played the PNC Championship with his son Charlie, who now is 12. Woods also has a 13-year-old daughter, Samantha.
The news put a damper on the World Golf Championship in Florida, where Woods was eligible to play if healthy.
Video footage from the scene showed Woods’ dark gray 2021 Genesis sport utility vehicle badly crumpled and lying on its side near the bottom of the hillside, its windows smashed.
Firefighters and paramedics extricated Woods from the wreckage of his SUV and transported him with a neck collar and backboard to a local hospital via road.
“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.
Published in Dawn, February 25th, 2021