Tiger Woods is recovering from a lengthy surgery to repair what a doctor said Tuesday night were “significant orthopaedic injuries to his right lower extremity” suffered in a single-car rollover crash hours earlier on a steep roadway in a Los Angeles suburb.
As part of a statement on Woods’ official Twitter account, Dr. Anish Mahajan of Harbor-UCLA Medical Center updated the famed golfer’s condition, saying in part that he had multiple “open fractures” to his lower right leg, and he had a rod placed in his tibia and screws and pins inserted in his foot and ankle during an emergency surgery.
“Comminuted open fractures affecting both the upper and lower portions of the tibia and fibula bones were stabilized by inserting a rod into the tibia,” said Mahajan, the chief medical officer and interim CEO at Harbor-UCLA. “Additional injuries to the bones of the foot and ankle were stabilized with a combination of screws and pins. Trauma to the muscle and soft-tissue of the leg required surgical release of the covering of the muscles to relieve pressure due to swelling.”
A comminuted fracture means the bone is broken into more than two pieces; open means a break in the skin.
Woods, 45, was “awake, responsive, and recovering in his hospital room,” according to the statement.
The update on his condition came almost 15 hours after Woods needed to be extricated from his heavily damaged SUV following the one-vehicle crash near the border of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes, about 30 miles south of downtown Los Angeles.
In a news conference earlier Tuesday, Alex Villanueva of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said Woods was conscious and able to communicate with officials who arrived on the scene at approximately 7:18 a.m. PT in Rancho Palos Verdes, after they received a 911 call from a neighbor near the crash. L.A. County Fire Department’s fire chief Daryl Osby said Woods was in serious but stable condition upon arrival.
Authorities said there was no immediate evidence that Woods was impaired. They checked for odor of alcohol or other signs that he was under the influence of a substance, but did not find any.
The two-lane road on which the rollover occurred curves through upscale suburbs, and the northbound side that Woods was driving on descends steeply enough that signs warn trucks to use lower gears. The speed limit is 45 mph.
According to Villanueva, Woods’ vehicle, a midsize SUV (2021 Genesis), appeared to first make contact with the median, then went across the two southbound lanes. He hit a curb, hit trees and rolled over several times, with the vehicle ultimately settling several hundred feet from the road. There were no skid marks and no evidence of braking, and weather was not a factor, per Villanueva. They did not say how fast he was driving, and he was wearing a seatbelt.
Osby said a pry bar and ax were used to remove the SUV’s windshield and pull Woods to safety. The sheriff’s department had said earlier Tuesday that the Jaws of Life were used, but officials later said that was not the case.
The airbags deployed, and the inside of the car stayed basically intact, and that “gave him a cushion to survive the crash,” Villanueva said.
Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who first arrived on the scene, said he sometimes catches people topping 80 mph in the 45 mph zone and that crashes are common there.
“I will say that it’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” Gonzalez said.
When the deputy arrived, a neighbor told him the driver was still in the vehicle. Gonzalez said he poked his head through a hole in the windshield and saw Woods with his seatbelt on. The deputy asked Woods questions, including what day it was and where he was.
“Tiger was able to speak to me lucidly,” Gonzalez said. Woods appeared “incredibly calm,” the deputy said, likely because he was in shock.
Another car, which had stopped and pulled over to the side of the road to assist Woods shortly after the accident, was struck by another vehicle coming over the hill, but there were no injuries.
Villanueva said it will take anywhere from days to several weeks to complete the investigation into Woods’ crash.
Woods, who was rehabbing from a Dec. 23 back procedure, was in the area for the Genesis Invitational, a PGA Tour event that he hosts at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades. The tournament is run by his foundation.
On Sunday, in an interview with CBS during the final-round broadcast, Woods suggested that he had yet to ramp up golf activity following his fifth back procedure and gave no timetable for his return.
On Monday, Woods filmed various outtakes and scenes for Discovery-owned GolfTV, a streaming entity with which he has an endorsement deal. In a statement, GolfTV said Woods was filming on-course instruction as part of his latest series, and actor David Spade and former NBA star Dwyane Wade posted photos with him on social media from Rolling Hills Country Club. GolfTV and Golf Digest have a collaboration in which Woods is paid to provide content.
Woods was set to film more for the series Tuesday, per GolfTV. According to ESPN’s Shelley Smith, Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert and New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees were to be part of it. Neither QB could understand why Woods was late for the 8 a.m. meeting, Smith reported.
Reaction to the crash was widespread in the hours afterward.
Justin Thomas, one of Woods’ friends on the PGA Tour, discussed the crash while he prepared for the WGC-Workday Championship in Bradenton, Florida.
“I’m sick to my stomach. You know, it hurts to see one of your — now one of my closest friends — get in an accident,” Thomas said. “Man, I just hope he’s all right. Just worry for his kids, you know. I’m sure they’re struggling.”
Phil Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus were among those to take to social media to express messages of support.
We are all pulling for you, Tiger. We are so sorry that you and your family are going through this tough time. Everyone hopes and prays for your full and speedy recovery.
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) February 23, 2021
Barbara and I just heard about Tiger’s accident, and like everyone else, we are deeply concerned. We want to offer him our heartfelt support and prayers at this difficult time. Please join us in wishing Tiger a successful surgery and all the best for a full recovery.
— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) February 23, 2021
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan issued a statement wishing Woods the best.
“On behalf of the PGA Tour and our players, Tiger is in our prayers and will have our full support as he recovers,” Monahan said in a statement.
Added Augusta National Golf Club chairman Fred Ridley: “Tiger Woods is part of the Augusta National family, and the news of his accident is upsetting to all of us. We pray for him, for his full recovery and for his family during this difficult time.”
Woods, an 82-time PGA Tour winner, returned to golf in 2018 after overcoming several injuries and dealing with intoxication of prescription pain medication that led to a 2017 DUI arrest and subsequent probation. Woods was found asleep at the wheel several miles from his South Florida home in May of that year, some five weeks after a spinal fusion surgery was performed to alleviate the constant nerve pain in his lower back. The surgery fused an area of his spine, and Woods — after six months without being able to swing a club — was able to return to hitting balls.
Upon his return, he played a full schedule in 2018, winning the Tour Championship for his 80th victory. In April 2019, he won the Masters for his 15th major title and fifth win at Augusta National. Later that year, he won the Zozo Championship for his 82nd PGA Tour victory, tying Sam Snead‘s record.
Ranked 50th in the world, Woods had a disappointing 2020 season, as he played just nine times, his best finish a tie for ninth in January. His last official competition was the Masters in November, where he tied for 38th. He also played in an exhibition, the PNC Championship, with his 11-year-old son, Charlie, in December, just days before his latest back procedure.
Information from ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne and The Associated Press was used in this report.