Tiger Woods survived “what would otherwise have been a fatal crash” because the interior of his vehicle remained largely intact, according to Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
Woods suffered multiple leg injuries and underwent surgery in a local trauma centre following the accident early on Tuesday morning.
The 15-time major winner was “conscious and able to communicate” with emergency personnel at the scene and was in a “stable condition with serious injuries” when he was taken to Harbor UCLA Medical Centre.
Woods’s vehicle, a 2021 mid-size SUV bearing the logo of his Genesis Invitational tournament, travelled “several hundred feet from the centre divider” and sustained “major damage”.
“The front end was totally destroyed, bumpers destroyed, airbags deployed – thankfully the interior was more or less intact, which gave him the cushion to survive what would otherwise have been a fatal crash,” Sheriff Villanueva added.
He said that “deputies at the time did not see any evidence of impairment” after arriving on the scene of the crash at 7.18am local time.
“We’re looking at signs of (being) under the influence of either narcotics, medication, alcohol, odour of alcohol, all these different things that would give you an idea but there was none present,” Villanueva added.
In May 2017, with five prescription drugs in his system, Woods was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence when he was found asleep at the wheel of his car and later pleaded guilty to reckless driving.
Villanueva added that the downhill, sloping road “has a high frequency of accidents” and that the distance the vehicle had travelled indicated that Woods had been “going at a relatively greater speed than normal.”
Deputy Carlos Gonzalez was first on the scene and said Woods was “not able to stand under his own power” before being removed from the vehicle and placed on a backboard.
He said that Woods was wearing his seatbelt and was “still calm and lucid” when he told him his name.
Woods was travelling northbound on Hawthorne Boulevard, at Blackhorse Road, when the incident occurred. It is thought the first point of impact was a wooden road sign bearing the words “Welcome To Rolling Hills Estates”, which was recovered by police.
Neighbours living near to the crash on Hawthorne Boulevard reported hearing a loud bang at about 7am local time on Tuesday.
Brian Bond, 52, was at his partner’s house nearby when he heard a “loud noise, almost like an explosion”.
He told PA: “I came outside, thought it was my neighbour, we didn’t know what it was, then we saw on the news he (Woods) had crashed.”
Mely Lim, 62, lives just a few yards from where Woods’ SUV crashed. She was watching the news when she was interrupted by a loud bang.
She said: “I did not go outside because I thought it might be something dangerous.”
Speaking at a press conference ahead of the WGC-Workday Championship, an emotional Justin Thomas expressed his concern for Woods and his two children, Sam and Charlie.
“I’m sick to my stomach,” Thomas said. “You know, it hurts to see one of your… now one of my closest friends get in an accident.
“Man, I just hope he’s all right. Just worry for his kids, you know. I’m sure they’re struggling.”
Woods, 45, was at Riviera Country Club at the weekend as host of the Genesis Invitational, but was not competing following recent back surgery.
Pictures on social media showed Woods smiling with comedian David Spade and basketball star Dwayne Wade as they filmed content for GolfTV.
Speaking at the weekend, Woods said he hoped to be able to contest the Masters in April following a microdiscectomy to relieve a pressurised disc fragment in January.
Asked if he would be at Augusta National, Woods said: “God, I hope so.”
Following career-saving spinal fusion surgery in April 2017, Woods won the Tour Championship in 2018 and completed a remarkable comeback by winning the 2019 Masters, his 15th major title and first since 2008.
In a statement on social media, Masters chairman Fred Ridley wrote: “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.”
Jack Nicklaus, whose record of 18 major titles has been one of Woods’ biggest goals, wrote on Twitter: “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.”
Former world number one Greg Norman wrote on Instagram: “He has mental strength stronger than most and has fought many battles and won many of them.
“His mental strength will win this battle. Prayers and thoughts to TigerWoods and his family.”
Seven-time Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton also took to Instagram to write a message underneath an image of Woods’ vehicle.
“So sad to hear this,” Hamilton wrote. “Am thinking and praying for you @tigerwoods.”