RANCHO PALOS VERDES, Calif. — Casting a cloud of uncertainty on the next chapter of his storied career, golf legend Tiger Woods was seriously injured and hospitalized following a single-car crash Tuesday morning in a residential area south of Los Angeles.
“It’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, a first responder to the scene.
The accident marked the latest stunning turn for Woods, whose professional highs and personal lows have been broadcast in real time the past quarter-century for the world to see, from the familiar sight of him wearing his signature red shirt on the Sunday of a tournament to the viral clips of a 2017 arrest. The news especially rocked the golf world, the uncertainty fueling speculation about whether Woods, who has battled injuries and ailments the past several years, will be able to mount another comeback and again hoist a trophy at a major championship.
According to the sheriff’s department, Woods was alone in the car, traveling northbound on Hawthorne Boulevard at 7:12 a.m. local time when the vehicle flipped at Blackhorse Road. Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the car was traveling downhill when it first made contact with a median, hitting a sign that reads “Welcome to Rolling Hills Estates.” The vehicle then crossed the opposing lane of traffic, where it skipped a curb and had “several rollovers,” according to Villanueva. It traveled for several hundred feet before it finally hit a tree and came to a rest.
The accident is still under investigation, but Villanueva said there was no evidence of impairment. He said there were no skid marks on the road or signs of braking, and it appeared Woods’s car, a 2021 Genesis SUV, was probably traveling at a “relatively greater speed than normal.”
Department officials said Woods had to be rescued from the car with extrication tools, including an ax. Osby said Woods was conscious during the rescue and didn’t appear to suffer any “life-endangering injuries to my knowledge.”
“In my experience of working in public safety almost the past four decades, any time you’re involved in a single-vehicle accident like this with rollover and that level of damage and broken legs and laceration, you’re going to be in severe pain,” Osby said at an afternoon news conference.
Gonzalez said he found Woods trapped in the car, wearing a seat belt. The golfer was unable to exit the vehicle or stand after he was rescued by paramedics and fire officials.
“I made contact with him, and I ensured that he was able to speak to me,” Gonzalez said. “At that time, he seemed as though he was still calm and lucid.”
Woods was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center near Carson, Calif., a Level 1 trauma center located about nine miles to the northeast of the crash site. Sheriff’s department officials said they couldn’t discuss Woods’s condition, and citing privacy laws, a hospital spokesperson declined to comment.
“We’ve been in touch with his manager and they didn’t want me to say anything on his condition,” Villanueva said. “All we know is that it’s a serious condition as a result of the accident, and that’s about all they want to say.”
Television cameras broadcast images of the car turned on its side, front end destroyed and windows shattered. With more than a dozen reporters converging on the crash scene and news helicopters circling overhead, investigators used yellow caution tape to block off a curving stretch of Hawthorne Boulevard, a major, four-lane road through Rancho Palos Verdes. The hilly community about 30 miles southwest of downtown L.A. is known for its picturesque cliffs, golf courses and sweeping Pacific Ocean views.
Woods hosted the most recent PGA Tour event, the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, Calif. Though he didn’t play in the tournament because of recent back surgery, he was at the course with his fellow players, presenting the championship trophy Sunday to Max Homa.
“I’m sick to my stomach,” an emotional Justin Thomas told reporters gathered Tuesday in Florida for this week’s World Golf Championships-Workday Championship. “It hurts to see one of your … closest friends get in an accident. I just hope he’s all right. Just worried for his kids. I’m sure they’re struggling.”
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan said the tour was aware of the accident and “awaiting further information when he comes out of surgery.”
Meanwhile, word spread quickly among players, many of whom had gathered in Florida for practice rounds ahead of this week’s tournament. Golfer Justin Rose directed a tweet at Woods, saying: “We know how tough you are, we’ve seen it a hundred times. Hoping and praying you’re ok my friend.” And Phil Mickelson tweeted, “We are all pulling for you, Tiger. We are so sorry that you and your family are going through this tough time.”
Woods is a transcendent star whose life and career had been under a spotlight since he first learned to swing a golf club. He rewrote record books, chased down the game’s legends and became one of the world’s most marketable celebrities, signing lucrative endorsement deals with a host of Fortune 500 companies.
For more than a decade, from 1997 until 2008, he was without peer on the course, winning 14 major championships, including four Masters tournaments, trailing only Jack Nicklaus’s 18 majors. His fame often overshadowed the sport, and headlines and tabloids increasingly focused on his personal life. Woods admitted to extramarital affairs and announced a break from golf in December 2009.
In the ensuing years, Woods battled through injuries — particularly lingering back issues that derailed his game — broke with his longtime caddie and slid down the world rankings. He was arrested near his Florida home in May 2017 on a charge of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He eventually took part in a DUI offender program and pleaded guilty to reckless driving. He told police at the time he was taking prescription painkillers and later issued a statement saying he had experienced “an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.”
Five weeks later, Woods shared in a tweet that he’d undergone a “private intensive program” and would “continue to tackle” an issue that he did not specify.
That year had been especially difficult for Woods on the course, too: He pulled out of the Masters and cut his season short, opting for a fourth back surgery. When he returned the following season, he showed flashes of a player still capable of brilliance on both the tee box and green, finishing second at the 2018 PGA Championship and renewing speculation that he might still have a shot at Nicklaus’s vaunted record.
After years of turbulence and speculation, in 2019, Woods won his fifth green jacket at the Masters, his first major since 2008. Unlike the young prodigy who overpowered courses and wowed spectators, Woods was now a 43-year-old champion, facing a ticking clock and string of ailments. He had knee surgery in August 2019 and this past December underwent a fifth back surgery.
It was his fourth microdiscectomy procedure, aimed at lessening nerve pain. Woods had the same procedure in 2014 and twice the following year. In April 2017, he had a spinal fusion, returning to competition in less than a year.
On Sunday, Woods spoke with broadcaster Jim Nantz during the final round of the Genesis Invitational. Asked about playing in this year’s Masters, Woods said, “I’ve got to get there first.”
“I don’t know what the plan is,” he said. “The plan right now is just to get the [next] MRI.”
Bonesteel and Maese reported from Washington.
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