On February 23, 2021, Tiger Woods was in a terrifying car accident in Rancho Palos Verdes, California. The star golfer suffered many serious injuries in the single-vehicle crash and for many months, his future on the golf course was uncertain. He returned to action, albeit with a limp, and received a standing ovation at the 2022 Masters Tournament. Woods is also competing in the 2023 Masters Tournament, his 25th appearance at the event.
Here’s what you need to know about Tiger Woods’ car crash and injuries:
1. Tiger Woods Was Involved in a Single-Vehicle Accident in February 2021 & Investigators Determined That Speed Was a Primary Cause of the Accident
The world was shocked when news of Woods’s scary car accident broke on February 23, 2021. The golfer was driving his SUV to a golf course in Los Angeles at around 7 a.m. when he drove his car into a center median, crossed two lanes of oncoming traffic, and hit a tree before the SUV rolled over down an embankment.
According to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, the investigation into the collision found that Woods was driving at an excessive speed and made no attempt to turn the steering wheel or brake prior to the impact.
“The primary causal factor for this traffic collision was driving at a speed unsafe for the road conditions and the inability to negotiate a curve of the roadway,” L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said in a press conference. “Estimated speeds at the first area of impact were 84 to 87 miles per hour and the final estimated speed when the vehicle struck the tree was 75 miles per hour.”
Villanueva confirmed that there were “no signs of impairment” and said the golfer would not be cited for a traffic violation.
In the 22-page collision report obtained by USA Today, the sheriff’s department stated that Woods drove straight into the median instead of curving right with his lane. After hitting the median, he continued for a few hundred feet and the data from the vehicle’s black-box recorder did not show any signs of braking. The golfer, who later told investigators that he didn’t remember driving prior to the crash, hit the gas pedal at 99% in the last seconds before the impact.
“Had [Woods] applied his brakes to reduce his speed or steered to correct the direction of travel, he would not have collided with the center median and the collision would not have occurred,” the report stated. A forensic crash reconstruction expert not connected to the investigation told the outlet that it appeared to be “a classic case of falling asleep behind the wheel,” though that has not been confirmed in the official report.
The sheriff’s department wrote in its report that they found Woods’ blood pressure to be “too low to administer any type of pain medication.” That is “consistent with shock as a result of collision and the injuries [Woods] sustained,” a sheriff’s captain added.
2. Tiger Woods Suffered Major Injuries to His Right Leg and Underwent Multiple Surgeries After the Accident
After his accident, the golfer was rushed to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center by ambulance. Dr. Anish Mahajan shared an update on Woods’ injuries through the golfer’s Twitter account stating that he suffered “significant orthopedic injuries to his right lower extremity.”
Woods underwent emergency surgery for “comminuted open fractures affecting both the upper and lower portion of the tibia and fibula bones.” The surgery saw a rod inserted into Woods’ leg to stabilize it while screws and pins were used to stabilize his foot and ankle bones.
Woods was then transferred to another hospital before eventually returning home to continue his recovery. The report released by the sheriff’s department included a summary of Woods’ injuries, stating that he was “knocked unconscious,” received lower front jaw lacerations, bruised his rib cafe and fractured his right tibia and fibula, HollywoodLife reported.
The star athlete posted the first photo of himself after the accident on April 23. He had his leg in a boot and was using crutches for support as he stood on a golf course with his dog Bugs and smiled at the camera.
3. Tiger Woods Said the Recovery Has Been ‘More Painful’ Than Anything Else in the Past & Said He Could Have Lost His Leg
Woods first opened up about his injuries to Golf Digest in May 2021, telling the publication, “This has been an entirely different animal. I understand more of the rehab processes because of my past injuries, but this was more painful than anything I have ever experienced.”
He shed more light on the extent of the injuries to his right leg in a video interview with Golf Digest in November 2021, revealing that he was unsure if he’d ever be able to walk again, and was also in danger of losing his leg. “There was a point in time when, I wouldn’t say it was 50/50, but it was damn near there if I was going to walk out of that hospital with one leg,” he shared.
He said the process had been “hard,” outlining the last nine months since the accident. “I spent three weeks in the hospital and after that, I spent basically a total of three months in a hospital bed in my house,” he said. “I had a lot of different procedures.” He progressed from the hospital bed to a wheelchair to crutches, he shared, but said he kept looking outside to his backyard and wishing he could be out there playing golf.
He also described how his father’s military and special forces teaching helped him out. “Any SF operator can attest to this—you don’t know how long a firefight is gonna take,” he explained. “It could last five seconds or five hours and some could go on for days at a time. With that in mind, you don’t know when the end is so that’s the hard part.” He said his father said that to manage the unknown, he would just “live meal to meal.”
Woods shared, “I just shortened up the windows of, ‘Oh, this is gonna be nine months of hell,’ to ‘It’s just two or three hours.’ If I can repeat these two to three hours at a time, next thing you know it adds up, it accumulates into weeks, months and to a point where here I am talking to you and walking into a room.”
4. Tiger Woods Shared During His Recovery That He Had Accepted He Wouldn’t Play at the Top Level Again
While recovering from his injuries, he told Golf Digest that he was still hopeful that he could golf again in the future but likely not at the same level as before. “I don’t have to compete and play against the best players in the world to have a great life,” he shared.
“After my back fusion, I had to climb Mt. Everest one more time,” he said. “I had to do it, and I did. This time around, I don’t think I’ll have the body to climb Mt. Everest, and that’s OK. I can still participate in the game of golf. I can still, if my leg gets OK, I can still click off a tournament here or there. But as far as climbing the mountain again and getting all the way to the top, I don’t think that’s a realistic expectation of me.”
At the time, he said he wasn’t even at the halfway point of his recovery and needed to do a lot more muscle and nerve development in his right leg. “At the same time, as you know, I’ve had five back operations,” he pointed out. “So I’m having to deal with that. So as the leg gets stronger, sometimes the back may act up. … It’s a tough road.”
In February 2022, Woods said he was putting and chipping well but was still having issues with walking the golf course. “I’m still working on the walking part,” Woods said at a news conference at the Riviera Country Club before the Genesis Invitational. “My foot was a little messed up there about a year ago, so the walking part is something that I’m still working on. It takes time… You add in the age factor, too. You just don’t quite heal as fast, which is frustrating.”
He also said he was feeling “very lucky” to be able to have the use of his leg at all. “I didn’t know if I was going to have the right leg or not,” he said. “So to be able to have my right leg still here, it’s huge. I still have a lot of issues with it, but it’s mine and I’m very thankful for that.”
5. Tiger Woods Gave an Update on His Right Leg Ahead of the 2023 Masters Tournament
Woods addressed where his leg is at in the lead-up to the 2023 Masters Tournament and said it will “never be the same” but he feels better than at the 2022 event. “Mobility, it’s not where I would like it, but it’s — as I’ve said here, I’ve said to you guys before, I’m very lucky to have this leg; it’s mine,” he shared in the pre-tournament press conference.
“Yes, it had been altered and there’s some hardware in there, but it’s still mine,” he continued. “It has been tough and will always be tough. The ability and endurance and what my leg will do going forward will never be the same.” He said that’s why he’s not competing in as many tournaments as he’d like to but he had accepted it.
He also shared that he believes his endurance is better. “I think my endurance is better,” he explained. “But [my leg] aches a little bit more than it did last year just because at that particular time when I came back, I really had not pushed it that often. And I had a little window in which I did push it and was able to come back.”