LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Golf champion Tiger Woods was hospitalized in Los Angeles on Tuesday with severe leg injuries suffered when his car careened off a road and rolled down a hillside, requiring rescue crews to pry him from the crash wreckage, authorities said.
The injuries were not believed to be life-threatening, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told a news conference, adding Woods was conscious and “able to communicate” when rescue personnel arrived.
The sheriff said there was no evidence of driver impairment when Woods was assessed by emergency workers at the scene, and no blood samples were drawn by investigators after he was rushed by ambulance to the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
Woods, one of the world’s most celebrated sports figures, was the sole occupant of the car when it crashed about 7:12 a.m. near the suburban community of Rolling Hills Estates, the sheriff’s department said.
Sheriff’s deputy Carlos Gonzales, first on the scene, said Woods, still wearing his seatbelt, was “calm and lucid.” The deputy said he immediately recognized the golfing great after Woods told him his name was “Tiger.”
Woods suffered serious injuries to both legs and was initially listed in serious but stable condition, Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby told reporters.
A statement posted on Woods’ official Twitter account late on Tuesday said he had undergone a “long surgical procedure” on his lower right leg and ankle and was “awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room”.
Open, or compound, fractures of his tibia and fibula bones were stabilized with a rod, and screws and pins were used to stabilize other injuries to his foot and ankle, Anish Mahajan, the chief medical officer and interim CEO of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center said in the tweet.
It was not immediately clear what effect the accident might have on his career.
Woods, 45, who has endured a series of back and knee injuries in recent years, is considered the greatest golfer of his generation. He is the only modern pro to win all four major golf titles in succession, taking the U.S. Open, British Open and PGA Championship in 2000 and the Masters title in 2001, a feat that became known a the Tiger Slam.
HAZARDOUS ROAD STRETCH
In a statement to Golf Digest magazine, Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, said the winner of 15 major championships was undergoing surgery.
The cause of the accident was under investigation, though the sheriff said weather was not a factor.
Video footage from the scene showed Woods’ dark gray 2021 Genesis sport utility vehicle badly crumpled and lying on its side near the bottom of the hillside, its windows smashed.
Woods’ vehicle swerved across the median strip into an oncoming lane then struck a curb and a tree as it plunged off the road and down an embankment, Villanueva said, adding “there were several rollovers” before the SUV came to rest. The sheriff said the steep and winding stretch of road “has a high frequency of accidents.”
The sheriff also said the distance the vehicle traveled before leaving the roadway, with no visible skid marks, pointed to the car “going at a relatively greater speed than normal.”
Fire department officials said emergency personnel pulled Woods from the vehicle through the front windshield after the glass and its surrounding frame were cut out and removed.
Woods’ success on the greens elevated him to worldwide fame, ushering in an era of multimillion-dollar endorsements and lucrative appearances. As the first African American to achieve major golf stardom, Woods also helped transform the sport itself, broadening its appeal far beyond golf’s traditional domain of white, male and middle-class enthusiasts.
He was also a major influence on a modern generation of golfers that included such pros as Australian former world No. 1 Jason Day, who has said he read a book about Woods and sought to copy the American’s rigorous work ethic.
Woods, who had his fifth back surgery in December and has undergone several knee operations, hosted the PGA tour’s annual Genesis Invitational at the Riviera Country Club over the weekend but did not compete.
He was seen at the Rolling Hills Country Club on Monday with actress Jada Pinkett Smith, retired basketball star Dwyane Wade and comedian David Spade. Golf Digest reported Woods had been filming for a TV show in which he was giving on-course instruction to the three celebrities and was due to resume filming on Tuesday.
‘IN OUR PRAYERS’
News of Woods’ accident sent shock waves through the sports world.
“Praying for my brother @TigerWoods as we all anxiously await more news,” retired baseball star Alex Rodriguez said on Twitter. “Thinking of him and his entire family.”
“I am sick to my stomach,” fellow PGA Tour golfer Justin Thomas said during a news conference.
The PGA Tour issued a statement from Commissioner Jay Monahan. “We are awaiting further information when he comes out of surgery. ... Tiger is in our prayers and will have our full support as he recovers.”
California-born Eldrick “Tiger” Woods turned professional in 1996 and won his first U.S. Tour title in only his fifth start. Since then, he has virtually redefined the game.
Woods held the top spot in professional golf’s world rankings for a record total of 683 weeks, winning 14 major championship titles from 1997 to 2008.
After a series of injuries and personal issues derailed his career at times, Woods claimed his 15th major title at the Masters in 2019, his fifth time earning the coveted green jacket given to Masters champions. Only Jack Nicklaus, with 18, has won more majors.
Tuesday’s accident was not Woods’ first auto-related mishap.
Woods crashed his car into a tree and fire hydrant in a bizarre, middle-of-night accident in 2009 at his luxury Florida home that led to revelations of extramarital affairs and ultimately his divorce from former model Elin Nordegren in August 2010.
In 2017, Woods blamed an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications for an early morning arrest near his Florida home when he was found asleep at the wheel of his car with the engine running in traffic and was charged with driving under the influence. He later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and was placed on probation for a year.
Reporting by Rory Carroll, Steve Gorman and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto and Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Berkrot, Peter Cooney and Lincoln Feast.
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