Los Angeles – US golf legend Tiger Woods was recovering in hospital yesterday after surgery for serious leg injuries sustained in a car crash that have raised fears for the 45-year-old’s career.
Law enforcement officials said the 15-time major champion, who has been plagued by injury in recent years, would not face reckless driving charges for the crash which didn’t involve any other cars.
Woods was driving alone Tuesday morning in a Los Angeles suburb on a road notorious for fatal accidents when his SUV hit the centre median, crossed into the opposing lane, struck a tree and then rolled over several times.
“A reckless driving charge has a lot of elements into it, this is purely an accident,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters.
He added that the most Woods could face would be a low-level offense known as an infraction if investigators conclude that he was speeding or not paying attention.
Investigators hope the new vehicle was equipped with a “black box” data recorder that will help shed light on the cause of the third high-profile car incident involving Woods in recent years.
Woods underwent surgery to repair “significant orthopaedic injuries” to his lower right leg and ankle, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center chief medical officer Anish Mahajan said.
This included the insertion of a rod into Woods’s shin bone and the use of “a combination of screws and pins” to stabilize his foot and ankle.
In the same statement posted on Woods’s Twitter account, his representatives said he was “currently awake, responsive, and recovering in his hospital room.”
The crash comes just two months after the golfing phenomenon underwent his fifth back operation.
Woods has had three procedures on his knee too during a career that has also seen him bounce back from high-profile scandal in his personal life.
In 2019, he completed an astonishing comeback from four back operations between 2014 and 2017 to win the Masters, his first major title since 2008.
News of his latest injuries has cast doubt on Woods’s ability to compete at the top level again.
“He’s not Superman,” four-time major champion Rory McIlroy said ahead of a tournament in Florida Wednesday.
“He’s a human being at the end of the day. And he’s already been through so much.
“At this stage I think everyone should just be grateful that he’s here, that he’s alive, that his kids haven’t lost their dad,” added the Northern Irishman.
World number four Xander Schauffele described the “sombre” mood on the practice greens ahead of the World Golf Championships Workday Championship in Florida.
Six-time major winner Nick Faldo said he thought it would be “quite extraordinary” if Woods completes another comeback.
The Englishman added that Woods would first have to focus on rebuilding his body and that playing competitively “is possibly a long way down the line.”
Faldo said Woods’s age made it even more difficult.
“It’s tough enough playing at 45 when you’re playing against kids that are 25,” Faldo told CBS.
World number one Dustin Johnson tweeted that he was wishing Tiger “a quick recovery and a Ben Hogan style comeback.”
“If anyone can do it, it’s TW,” he wrote.
Hogan famously won six of his nine major titles after almost being killed in a car crash in 1949 at age 36.
Woods’s crash occurred on a steep stretch of road known as an accident hotspot. He was not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, Villanueva repeated Wednesday.
Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, the first officer to arrive at the scene, said it was “very fortunate” that the golfer came out of it alive.
Woods was conscious, appearing “calm and lucid” and able to identify himself as “Tiger,” Gonzalez said Tuesday.
Woods was in the Los Angeles area for his annual Genesis Invitational golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club, and was driving a courtesy car on the morning of the crash.
News of the crash spread rapidly around the sports world and beyond, with figures inside and outside golf swift to send their best wishes.
Woods was one of the most revered athletes in the world when in November 2009, he smashed his car into a tree and a fire hydrant outside his luxury Florida home, sparking a series of scandalous revelations that doomed his marriage and put his game in freefall.
He later divorced from his Swedish wife Elin Nordegren after a cascade of women came forward to say they had had affairs with the golfer.
In May 2017, he was arrested near his home for being asleep at the wheel of his car in a traffic lane. Woods said he had taken prescription drugs and pleaded guilty to reckless driving.
He is the winner of 82 US PGA titles, level with Sam Snead for the all-time record. — AFP