By Gil Backus
Tiger Woods was “lucky to be alive” after being seriously injured in a rollover crash near Rancho Palos Verdes, the Los Angeles County sheriff said yesterday.
Woods was the sole occupant of a 2021 Genesis GV80 SUV when he crashed just after 7 a.m., authorities said. The vehicle sustained major damage, and Woods had to be extricated from the wreckage by personnel from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, sheriff’s officials said.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Woods was traveling at a “relatively greater speed than normal” descending down a hill, noting that the area “has a high frequency of accidents.” The sheriff said that there were no skid marks and no signs of braking and that the golfer’s vehicle hit the center divider, a curb and a tree in the rollover crash.
Villanueva said there was no evidence Woods was impaired at the scene.
Woods was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center where he underwent “a long surgical procedure” on his lower right leg and ankle, according to a statement the golf legend released on Twitter. Doctors had to insert a rod into his leg and placed screws into his foot and ankle, according to the statement, which described Woods as “awake, responsive and recovering.”
L.A. County sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez arrived at the scene first and found Woods struggling to get out of the wreck, he said.
“Mr. Woods was not able to stand under his own power,” Gonzalez said, noting that Woods was put on a backboard.
“I spoke to him. I asked him what his name was. He told me his name was Tiger, and at that moment, I immediately recognized him,” Gonzalez said.
Aerial images of the scene showed Woods’ vehicle lying about 30 yards off the road on its side.
There did not appear to be skid marks on the northbound side of Hawthorne Boulevard, but the wooden “Welcome to Rolling Hills Estates” sign that had been in the median strip was obliterated. There was a license plate and fluid on the southbound side of the road, and Woods’ SUV narrowly missed a telephone pole as it careened up the hillside.
The PGA star was in Los Angeles as the host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, a golf tournament that concluded Sunday. He did not play in the event, as he was recovering from his fifth back surgery, but told CBS announcer Jim Nantz in an interview during the final round that he hoped to play in the Masters in April.
“God, I hope so. I’ve got to get there first,” Woods said in the interview. “A lot of it is based on my surgeons and doctors and therapist and making sure I do it correctly. This is the only back I’ve got; I don’t have much more wiggle room left.”
Woods stayed in Los Angeles County after the Genesis Invitational to participate in a two-day content shoot with Golf Digest/GolfTV. Although he did not hit balls or play any holes Monday, a smiling Woods was with retired NBA star Dwyane Wade and comedian David Spade — both of whom documented it on social media — at Rolling Hills Country Club. Part of the shoot involved Woods giving lessons on the course to celebrities.
A source familiar with the investigation said Woods was staying at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes and had left there early Tuesday to head to the Rolling Hills Country Club, about 20 minutes away, for filming. Golf Digest confirmed that Woods was on his way back to the country club for an additional photo and video shoot when the crash occurred.
The crash occurred on a curvy, steep stretch of Hawthorne Boulevard, a major road that cuts through the Palos Verdes Peninsula where signs warn trucks to use lower gears when traveling downhill. The road was closed Tuesday morning as deputies investigated. A bright red tow truck was seen driving up Hawthorne toward the crash site about 1:30 p.m.
Sheriff’s deputies were photographing the scene and were set to take measurements and detail the wreckage before it was removed. The front end of the SUV was heavily damaged and the windscreen frame had been removed where Woods was extracted from the vehicle.
Investigators were trying to determine whether any other vehicles were on the road at the time and might have played a role in the crash. Data can also be extracted from the vehicle’s computer system, officials said.
Asked about the numerous deputies on scene examining the wreckage and documenting the crash site, Villaneuva said, “Any time there are injuries, an extensive investigation is required. The sheriff said it could take “days to several weeks” to complete the investigation.