November 28, 2009 / 4:05 AM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 7-Tiger Woods hurt in car crash, released from hospital

* Woods crashes early on Friday as he exits driveway

* Wife smashed car window with Golf club to get him out

* Injuries not serious, his office says

* Florida Highway Patrol says charges pending (Adds police chief’s comments)

By Jim Loney

MIAMI, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Tiger Woods, the world’s best golfer and a leading force in sports marketing, was hurt in a car accident in Florida on Friday but was released from a hospital in good condition after treatment.

A local police chief said Woods’ wife used a golf club to smash a window of his SUV to get him out.

Woods, 33, who made a triumphant return to professional golf this year after missing much of last season following reconstructive knee surgery, suffered “serious” injuries, the Florida Highway Patrol said. But the golfer’s office called the accident “minor.”

The FHP said in a statement that Woods was hurt when his Cadillac Escalade hit a fire hydrant and then a tree as he pulled out of the driveway of his house in Windermere, Florida, near Orlando, around 2:25 a.m. EST (0725 GMT).

Windermere Police Chief Daniel Saylor told CNN when his officers arrived at the scene Woods “was on the ground, semi-unconscious and had lacerations to the upper and lower lips.”

Woods was bleeding from the mouth and was “in and out of it for several minutes,” Saylor said.

He said Woods’ wife, Elin Nordegren, “explained to my officers that the doors were locked and she could not gain entry” into the crashed vehicle, so she “used a golf club” to smash a window.

Woods was the only passenger in the vehicle, Saylor said.

The accident was not alcohol-related, the FHP said. “The crash remains under investigation and charges are pending,” it said.

Woods’ office, in a statement published on his website, said: “He was admitted, treated and released today in good condition. We appreciate very much everyone’s thoughts and well wishes.”

Woods is perhaps the world’s richest athlete and the biggest draw on the PGA tour as he chases Jack Nicklaus’ record for victories in major tournaments and the unofficial title of best golfer ever. He has won 71 times on the PGA tour in a glittering career that includes 14 major wins.

He returned to action in February this year after being sidelined for eight months due to the knee surgery, and finished on top of the FedEx Cup standings for the season.

The Orlando Sentinel newspaper, citing the highway patrol, reported that the airbags in the Cadillac did not deploy, an indication that the car was traveling under 33 mph (53 kph).

“Basically it was facial lacerations, and as I’m understanding it, nothing that serious,” Windermere Mayor Gary Bruhn told CNN.

GREATEST GOLFER IN A GENERATION

Woods is the greatest golfer of his generation and arguably the best of all time. He trails Nicklaus, his childhood idol, by just four majors in all-time standings.

Forbes magazine said in September that Woods’ victory in the FedEx Cup, with its $10 million prize, had made him the first billionaire athlete. He has lucrative endorsement deals with Nike, Buick, Gillette and Gatorade.

“Like millions of fans around the world, we are grateful he was not seriously hurt and has been released in good condition,” said Michael Norton, spokesman for Gillette, which is owned by Procter & Gamble Co (PG.N).

Forbes said earlier this year that Woods was the highest earner in sports with $110 million during the previous 12 months, two and a half times that of his nearest competitor.

His impact on the sport has gone beyond his performances and earnings. As a player of mixed ethnic descent — his father was African-American and his mother was from Thailand — he is credited with broadening the appeal of the game.

Woods, who has two young children with Nordegren, is scheduled to host his annual Chevron World Challenge tournament in Thousand Oaks, California, next week. It starts on Thursday.

Born in Cypress, California, Woods was destined for golf stardom when he won three consecutive U.S. junior titles and three successive U.S. amateur championships before turning pro in late 1996.

He had swift success as a pro, becoming the youngest winner of the Masters tournament at Augusta National in 1997. His victory margin of 12 shots was the biggest in the tournament’s history. (Additional reporting by Simon Evans in Miami, Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles, John O’Callaghan and Xavier Briand in Washington and Martinne Geller in New York; editing by Paul Simao) ((jim.loney@thomsonreuters.com; +1 305 810 2688; Reuters Messaging: jim.loney.reuters.com@reuters.net))

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