Tiger Woods was seriously injured when the vehicle he was driving left the road and rolled down a hillside in Southern California on Tuesday morning, authorities said.
The golfing great’s injuries were not believed to be life threatening, ESPN reported, citing police sources, but he suffered two fractured legs and a shattered ankle and was undergoing surgery, according to reports.
Woods, 45, was the sole occupant of a gray Genesis sport utility vehicle when it crashed shortly after 7 am near the suburban communities of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes, 23 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said in a statement.
Sheriff’s Deputy Joana Warren told Reuters the vehicle had gone off the highway and rolled down the hillside before coming to rest at the bottom.
Sources said Woods, who was conscious when first responders arrived, had to be removed through the car’s windshield, the Los Angeles Times reported.
“Because of the situation and the way that you found the vehicle, he wasn’t able to open the door and come out,” LA County Fire Department spokesman Henry Narvaez said.
County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Woods is “lucky to be alive”.
The airbags deployed, and the inside of the car stayed mostly intact, which “gave him a cushion to survive the crash”, Villanueva said.
Both of Woods’ legs were severely injured, county Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.
Villanueva said Woods was traveling at a “relatively greater speed than normal” descending down a hill, in an area with “a high frequency of accidents”. The sheriff said Woods’ vehicle struck the center divider, a curb and a tree.
Villanueva said there was “no evidence” at the scene that Woods was impaired. He was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center by ambulance, where he was in serious condition, the Fire Department said.
Video images showed the SUV resting on its side, well off the roadway, its front end badly damaged and surrounded by debris.
The crash occurred on a curvy 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 Times reported.
“It’s easy to pick up speed,” said Barbara Ferraro, a councilwoman in Rancho Palos Verdes. “Even if you’re not speeding, unless you’re actually putting on the brakes, you’ll pick up speed.”
Lauren Swing, a Rancho Palos Verdes resident, told the Times, “There’s accidents all the time. … I think it’s almost a dangerous stretch of road, and I always stay on the right side because I’m just afraid of people wanting to go fast,” she said.
Woods was in the Los Angeles area over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, in Pacific Palisades, where he presented the trophy. The SUV that Woods was driving Tuesday had tournament logos on the side door, indicating it was a courtesy car for players at the Genesis Invitational.
Woods was to spend Monday and Tuesday filming with Discovery-owned GolfTV, with which he has an endorsement contract.
This is the third time that Woods has been involved in a car incident. In 2009, after Thanksgiving, the SUV he was driving ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree. In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked on the side of the road. He was arrested on a driving-under-the-influence charge and said later it was a reaction to prescription medicine for back pain.
Woods was seen at the Rolling Hills Country Club on Monday with actress Jada Pinkett Smith, former basketball star Dwyane Wade and comedian David Spade. According to Golf Digest, also owned by Discovery, the TV shoot was for golfing lessons to celebrities.
“Prayers up for the GOAT (greatest of all time) @TigerWoods who was in an accident this morning,” Pinkett Smith tweeted. “Was just with him yesterday. Don’t take not even a MOMENT for granted!”
Woods, who underwent his fifth back surgery in December, last played on Dec 20 in the PNC Championship with his 11-year-old son, Charlie.
The Masters is April 8-11, and when asked if he would be there during the PNC telecast on CBS, Woods replied, “God, I hope so.”
“Praying for my brother @TigerWoods as we all anxiously await more News,” former baseball star Alex Rodriguez said on Twitter.
“I am sick to my stomach,” fellow PGA Tour golfer Justin Thomas said during a News conference in which he called Woods one of his closest friends. “I just hope he’s all right.”
Woods’ former girlfriend, Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn, tweeted. “Praying for TW.”
Former US president Donald Trump issued a statement urging Woods to get well soon, adding: “You are a true champion!”
Woods held the top spot in professional golf’s world rankings for a record 683 weeks, winning 14 major championships between 1997 and 2008. After a series of injuries and personal issues disrupted his playing at times, Woods claimed his 15th major title at the Masters in 2019, his fifth time earning the Masters green jacket. His 15 Grand Slam titles are second to the 18 majors won by Jack Nicklaus.
“Barbara and I just heard about Tiger’s accident, and like everyone else, we are deeply concerned,” Nicklaus tweeted. “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.”
Eldrick “Tiger” Woods was born in California and played collegiately at Stanford University. He turned professional in 1996 and won his first US Tour title in his fifth start.
Agencies contributed to this story.