Tiger Woods’ surgeon has revealed the golf star suffered multiple “open fractures” to his lower right leg resulting in a rod being placed in his tibia and screws and pins in his ankle.
It is the first major update on the condition of his leg injuries.
Woods was in the driver’s seat of a mangled SUV that rolled and ended up on its side down a steep roadway in the Los Angeles suburbs Tuesday morning (Wednesday NZT), seatbelt still fastened, both legs seriously injured.
He was lucid enough to give his name –“Tiger” – to the sheriff’s deputy who had poked his head through a hole in the windshield.
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“At that moment, it clicked in my mind and I immediately recognised him as Tiger Woods,” Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez said.
The single-car crash was another setback for Woods, the pre-eminent golfer of his generation who has spent the last decade in a cycle of injuries, self-inflicted personal problems and an arrest for DUI. Each time, he returned to the course and won.
Even at 45, Woods is among the more recognisable sports figures in the world and is sports’ biggest draw. His 2019 Masters victory was seen as a transcendent comeback and further cemented his reputation for toughness and clutch performances.
Briefly Tuesday (Wednesday NZT), the world paused and worried that Woods might be critically injured or worse. As it became clear that his life wasn’t in danger, the obvious question came out: Can he golf again?
“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.”
His agent Mark Steinberg said Woods underwent surgery on his leg, and the injuries were described as serious.
“He is currently in surgery and we thank you for your privacy and support,” Steinberg said.
No charges were filed, police said there was no evidence he was impaired and no one else was injured.
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.
It was the 10th surgery for Woods, who has suffered knee, back and neck problems for more than a decade.
Woods was in Los Angeles over the weekend as tournament host of the Genesis Invitational that ended Sunday, and then to film content for his sponsor, Discovery-owned GOLFTV. He was not playing while recovering from a fifth back surgery on December 23.
Woods was alone in the SUV when it crashed into a raised median, crossed two oncoming lanes and rolled several times, authorities said at a news conference.
Police said Woods was alert and able to communicate as firefighters pried open the front windshield to get him out.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said the airbags deployed and the inside of the SUV stayed mostly intact, which “gave him a cushion to survive the crash.”
Gonzalez said Woods was responsive and coherent when he arrived on scene, and was able to tell him his name. Though his injuries were visible, Woods appeared to be in shock and unconcerned with them, Gonzalez said.
“I’ve been doing this for a while. I’ve seen fatal traffic collisions,” Gonzalez said. “It was very fortunate that Mr Woods was able to come out of this alive.”
The crash happened about 7:15am on a sweeping, downhill stretch of a two-lane road through upscale suburbs. Gonzalez, the first to get to the wreck, said he sometimes catches people topping 80mph in the 45mph zone and crashes are common.
Thoughts and prayers have come from everywhere – Jack Nicklaus and Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, and former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, who has played golf with Woods and awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019.
Tiger Woods made “memories for a lifetime” playing alongside his 11-year-old son Charlie at the PNC Championship.
Woods, who shares with Sam Snead the PGA Tour record of 82 career victories, had said during the Genesis Invitational television broadcast that he was awaiting one more test from his December 23 microdiscectomy surgery before learning if he could expand his work.
Asked about playing the Masters on April 8-11, Woods replied, “God, I hope so.”
Woods 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.
He feared he would never play again until fusion surgery on his lower spine in April 2017. He returned a year later, and won the 2018 Tour Championship.
It was his first major in 11 years. The previous one was the U.S. Open in 2008 at Torrey Pines, on a left leg with shredded knee ligaments and a double stress fracture. He had reconstructive surgery a few days later.
Woods last played December 20 in the PNC Championship in Orlando, Florida, an unofficial event where players are paired with parents or children. He played with his son, Charlie, who is now 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.
“I’m sick to my stomach,” said Justin Thomas, No. 3 in the world and among the younger players whom Woods has embraced. “It hurts to see one of my closest friends get in an accident. Man, I just hope he’s all right.”
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 and checked into a clinic to get help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder.
Woods hasn’t won since the Zozo Championship in Japan in 2019, and he’s reduced his playing schedule in recent years because of injuries. Besides his back surgeries, he’s had four surgeries on his left knee, including a major reconstruction after he won the 2008 U.S. Open.
At a news conference, the police chief and fire chief of Los Angeles County didn’t answer follow-up questions on how they know he wasn’t impaired or how fast he was driving. Weather was not a factor in the crash.
ESPN reported that Woods may have broken both of his legs in the crash.
“Reports from the scene between paramedics are that [Tiger Woods] has potentially broken both of his legs”, ESPN SportsCenter anchor Michael Eves said.
The Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department had earlier tweeted that Woods had to be cut out of the car with the ‘jaws of life’ equipment but spokesman Captain James Powers later confirmed that was incorrect.
The LA Times reported that sources said Woods had to be removed through the car’s windshield.
A helicopter over the scene of Woods’ accident showed a car on its side with the front end heavily damaged. Airbags appeared to be deployed. The wreckage appeared to be just off the side of a road on a hillside.
The LA Times reported that law enforcement sources who requested anonymity said that Woods was travelling at a high rate of speed and lost control of the vehicle before crossing the centre divider. Woods’ SUV rolled multiple times before coming to a halt.
Woods was to spend Monday and Tuesday filming with Discovery-owned GOLFTV, with whom he has an endorsement contract. One tweet on Monday showed him in a cart smiling with David Spade.
According to Golf Digest, also owned by Discovery, the TV shoot was on-course lessons to celebrities, such as Spade, Jada Pinkett Smith and Dwyane Wade. He did not play.
The SUV he was driving on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT) had tournament logos on the side door, indicating it was a courtesy car for players at the Genesis Invitational.
US golfer Justin Thomas fights back tears as he expresses his shock at Tiger Woods’ car accident in Los Angeles.
Tournament director Mike Antolini did not immediately respond to a text message, though it is not unusual for players to keep courtesy cars a few days after the event.
Athletes from Mike Tyson to Magic Johnson and others offered hopes that Woods would make a quick recovery.
Crews used a crane to lift the damaged SUV out of the hillside brush. The vehicle was placed upright on the street and sheriff’s investigators inspected it and took photos. Then it was loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled away on Tuesday afternoon (Wednesday NZT).
Leading US golfer Justin Thomas said news of Woods’ accident “hurts”.
World No 3 Thomas, who described himself as now one of Woods’ closest friends, said: “I just hope he’s alright … just worried for his kids.”
The PGA Tour released a statement saying that Tiger “is in our prayers and will have our full support as he recovers”.
Tiger Woods’ major milestones
October 2004: Marries Elin Nordegren.
June 2007: Nordegren gives birth to their first child, daughter Samantha, a day after Woods finishes runner-up in the US Open.
June 2008: Wins the US Open in a playoff at Torrey Pines for his 14th major, four short of the record held by Jack Nicklaus. A week later, he has reconstructive surgery on his left knee to repair a torn ACL and two stress fractures in his left tibia. He is out for eight months.
February 2009: Wife gives birth to their son, Charlie.
August 2009: Loses a two-shot lead in the final round of the PGA Championship to YE Yang, the first time Woods has lost a 54-hole lead in a major.
November 2009: Crashes his SUV into a tree and a fire hydrant outside his Windemere, Florida home. Within a few weeks, his personal life unravels with reports of multiple extramarital affairs and he loses major sponsorship endorsements. He spends 45 days in a clinic and does not return to golf until the 2010 Masters.
August 2010: His divorce is finalised.
March 2012: Wins the Arnold Palmer Invitational for his first PGA Tour victory since the scandal in his personal life.
April 2014: Has back surgery a week before the Masters and misses Augusta National for the first time.
August 2014: Misses the cut in the PGA Championship and says he will take the rest of the year off, including the Ryder Cup, to get healthy.
February 2015: Looking like an amateur with his short game, shoots 82 in the Phoenix Open to miss the cut. A week later at Torrey Pines, withdraws after 11 holes. Announces he is taking time off to work on his game, saying that “my play, and scores, are not acceptable for tournament golf.”
April 2015: Returns at the Masters, his chipping issues gone, and ties for 17th.
June 2015: Shoots an 85 in the third round of the Memorial, his highest score as a professional.
August 2015: Misses the cut in his third straight major at the PGA Championship.
September 2015: Has a second back surgery.
October 2015: Has a third procedure on his back.
December 2015: In a sombre press conference at his Hero World Challenge, Woods says of his future, “So where is the light at the end of the tunnel? I don’t know.” He says he wants to play again and anything else he achieves will be “gravy.”
January 2017: Makes first PGA Tour start since 2015 and misses the cut at Torrey Pines.
April 2017: Has a fourth back surgery, this one to fuse his lower back.
May 2017: Arrested and briefly jailed in Jupiter, Florida, on suspicion of DUI. Police find him asleep behind the wheel of his car in the early morning with the engine running. He attributes it to a bad combination of pain medication.
October 2017: Woods pleads guilty to reckless driving and agrees to enter a diversion programme. Prosecutors drop the DUI charge under the plea agreement.
December 2017: Returns to competition at his Hero World Challenge, posts three rounds in the 60s and ties for ninth against an 18-man field, 10 shots behind.
July 2018: Takes the lead in the final round of the British Open, only to make double bogey on the 12th hole and finish in a tie for sixth.
August 2018: Closes with a 64, his lowest final round ever in a major, and is runner-up to Brooks Koepka in the PGA Championship.
September 2018: Wins the Tour Championship for his 80th career victory on the PGA Tour, leaving him two shy of the record held by Sam Snead.
April 2019: Wins the Masters for his fifth green jacket and 15th major title, his first in 11 years. He moves within three victories of Jack Nicklaus’ record for major championships.
December 2020: Has a fifth back surgery, a microdiscectomy.
February 23, 2021: Is in a single-car accident in suburban Los Angeles and is extricated from the rolled over vehicle, suffering leg injuries that require surgery.
– with Stuff