By Amy Shipley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 29, 2009
WINDERMERE, FLA. -- Two Florida Highway Patrol troopers drove to Tiger Woods's $2.4 million estate Saturday afternoon, hoping to ask Woods what caused him to crash his 2009 Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant and tree just outside his driveway in the wee hours Friday morning.
But the interview never occurred because a representative for the world-famous golfer called dispatchers while the troopers were en route, saying Woods and his wife Elin Nordegren were unavailable for the interview but could meet Sunday.
It was the second time troopers tried unsuccessfully to speak with Woods, one of the world's richest and most well-known athletes, about the accident that left him briefly unconscious and bleeding from the mouth.
"Maybe somebody needs to call the agent and ask why they weren't available," said Kim Montes, the public affairs officer for the Florida Highway Patrol. "We wanted to give Tiger an opportunity to tell us what happened so we can include it in the crash report. Right now, we don't know why he lost control of his vehicle."
Woods's agent, Mark Steinberg, did not immediately return a request for comment. The interview, Montes said, was rescheduled for Sunday. When troopers sought Woods on Friday night at his residence, they were told he was sleeping. The agents did not attempt to enter the house Saturday, Montes said. She said Woods is not required to speak with investigators. The case remains under investigation, and possible charges are pending, she said.
The incident, which occurred at 2:25 a.m. Friday, caused Woods to be taken to a local hospital, where he was treated and released that day. The curious hour of the crash, and the fact that it occurred just after he left his driveway, raised questions about where he was going and why he at first struck the fire hydrant, then plowed into a tree.
Woods and his handlers provided little information about the incident.
The highway patrol report of the case said alcohol was not a factor but described Woods's injuries as "serious." A statement posted Friday on Woods's Web site , however, called the accident "minor," and said Woods was released from the hospital in "good condition."
Montes said patrol officers had received the tape of the 911 call from the Orange County Sheriff's Office, but would not release it until the investigating officer, Joshua Evans, had time to review it, as early as Sunday. Across the street from the exclusive lakeside enclave called Isleworth where Woods resides, dozens of reporters, cameras, tripods, cars and at least 10 television trucks fought for position along a narrow strip of grass Saturday as a steady stream of curious onlookers drove slowly by, some taking photos of the scene.
The attention surely proved unwanted for Woods, who despite his extraordinary fame has surrounded himself with a tight-lipped circle of friends and family and generally succeeded in keeping his personal affairs outside of public scrutiny.
Since an Esquire magazine story in 1997 reported Woods telling off-color jokes, he has been distant from the media, avoiding extensive one-on-one interviews. In 1999, after his caddie Mike "Fluff" Cowan talked about his compensation package in a national golf publication, Woods fired Cowan, though he never said why.
Woods and his wife, who had been the nanny for golfer Jesper Parnevik, kept photographers and press away from their lavish but exceedingly private $1.5 million wedding ceremony in Barbados in October 2004.
Windermere Police Chief Daniel Saylor told reporters Friday that Nordegren, who was standing above the prone Woods when officers arrived to the scene, was "frantic, upset."
Saylor said both of Woods's lips had been cut, his mouth was full of blood, and he was floating in and out of consciousness. Nordegren told police she was inside when the crash occurred but rushed out when she heard a loud noise, Saylor said.
She said she used a golf club to break the rear window and pulled Woods out, he also said.
The crash occurred just two days after the National Enquirer reported that Woods had spent time with a New York nightclub hostess in Melbourne, Australia, where he competed in a recent golf tournament. The hostess, however, denied having a relationship with Woods to the Associated Press.
Saylor and Montes said they had uncovered no evidence to suggest the incident was anything other than a traffic accident. Montes said the Florida Highway Patrol was the sole agency investigating the crash.
This "is a traffic crash investigation," Montes said. "We're not going to address all of the rumor and speculation and those other things. There is no evidence to suggest this was anything other than a traffic crash, and that is what we're investigating."
Nordegren and the couple's two children, Sam Alexis, 2, and Charlie Axel, nine months, accompanied Woods to Stanford University last weekend where he was admitted into the school's Hall of Fame.
Woods is scheduled to give a news conference Tuesday in advance of his tournament, the Chevron World Challenge in Thousand Oaks, Calif. Woods did not play in the event last year after reconstructive surgery on his left knee, but he has won the event four times announced he will compete next week. Tournament representatives did not return calls Saturday about whether his plans had changed.