In a career filled with remarkable comebacks, Tiger Woods faces perhaps his toughest recovery of all.
Woods was driving alone through a sweeping, downhill stretch of road through coastal suburbs of Los Angeles on Tuesday when his SUV struck a sign, crossed over two oncoming lanes and flipped several times before coming to rest on its side, its airbags deployed.
A sheriff’s deputy poked his head through a hole in the windshield to see Woods, still wearing his seatbelt, sitting in the driver’s seat.
The crash caused “significant” injuries to his right leg and he underwent what was described as a “long surgical procedure” at Harbor-UCLA Medical Centre.
Anish Mahajan, the chief medical officer, said Woods shattered tibia and fibula bones in multiple locations. He suffered “open fractures,” meaning the skin was broken.
The bones were stabilised by a rod in the tibia. He said a combination of screws and pins were used for injuries in the ankle and foot.
A statement on his Twitter account said he was awake, responsive and recovering.
“I will say that it’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” said Carlos Gonzalez, the deputy from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department who was the first on the scene.
No charges were filed, and police said there was no evidence he was impaired.
The crash was the latest setback for Woods, who at times has looked unstoppable on the golf course with his 15 major championships and record-tying 82 victories on the PGA Tour.
He is among the most recognisable sports figures in the world, and at 45 with a reduced schedule from nine previous surgeries, remains golf’s biggest draw.
He won the 2008 U.S. Open with shredded knee ligaments and two stress fractures in his left leg.
His personal life imploded on Thanksgiving weekend in 2009 when he was caught having multiple extramarital affairs and crashed his vehicle near his Florida home. He returned to win his 11th award as PGA Tour player of the year and reach No. 1.
And then after four back surgeries that kept him out of golf for the better part of two years, he won the Masters in April 2019 for the fifth time, a victory that ranks among the great comebacks in the sport.
Now it’s no longer a matter of when he plays again – the Masters is seven weeks away – but if he plays again.
Thoughts and prayers have come from everywhere – Jack Nicklaus and Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, and former Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump.
Woods had a fifth back surgery, a microdiscectomy, on December 23, just three days after he played the PNC Championship with his son Charlie, who now is 12. Woods also has a 13-year-old daughter, Samantha.
This is the third time Woods has been involved in a car investigation. Eight years after the 2009 incident, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road.
He was arrested on a DUI charge and said he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods later pleaded guilty to reckless driving and checked into a clinic to get help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder.
He was asked during a CBS broadcast on Sunday at Riviera about recovering from his back surgery in time to play the Masters and Woods replied, “God, I hope so. I’ve got to get there first.”