In this aerial image take from video provided by KABC-TV, a vehicle rest on its side after a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods along a road in the Rancho Palos Verdes suburb of Los Angeles on Tuesday, Feb. 23, 2021. Woods had to be extricated from the vehicle with the "jaws of life" tools, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department said in a statement. Woods was taken to the hospital with unspecified injuries. The vehicle sustained major damage, the sheriff's department said. (KABC-TV via AP)
The sheared-off front of the wrecked SUV told part of the story, and the officers on the scene filled in the rest. Tiger Woods was lucky to be alive, they said, thanks to modern safety technology and a big dose of good luck.
Alive and well, no. But alive nonetheless.
The good news — no, make that the BEST news — is that Woods survived after being pried Tuesday from the SUV he wrecked in Los Angeles. That’s despite injuries that are so severe — including multiple open fractures of his leg — that he will be convalescing a long, long time.
The other piece of good news was that there was no immediate sign that Woods was impaired at the time of the crash — a significant bit of information, of course, because of his past.
The bad news is that the career of the world’s greatest golfer — at least on the game’s biggest stages — is probably over.
Coming back from his recent back surgery to play again at the age of 45 was always going to be a problem. Woods himself said previously that Father Time remains undefeated and that his return to top level play wasn’t guaranteed.
Combine that with the gruesome injuries from his crash and now it borders on impossible.
This isn’t Ben Hogan, coming back from a near fatal car accident in 1949 to win the U.S. Open next year. Hogan was nine years younger, hadn’t been through multiple back and knee surgeries, and didn’t have to try to swing his driver hard enough to hit it 350 yards to keep up with the other players.
Woods was fragile enough to begin with and there were already questions about whether he could return to play at a high level. He might share Hogan’s determination to overcome everything in front of him, but in the end there’s only so much he can do to mend his broken body.
That means Woods will never break the record of 18 major championship wins held by Jack Nicklaus. It means his fans will never be able to will him on to another win like they did at the 2019 Masters.
And it means golf will be a lot quieter for a long time to come.
The wreck on a downhill stretch of road in tony Rancho Palos Verdes was stunning, though it shouldn’t have come as a shock. It marked the third time in a dozen years that Woods has been taken from vehicles in various stages of distress, a disturbing pattern that began with his infamous Thanksgiving weekend 2009 encounter with his now ex-wife outside his Florida mansion.
Four years ago he was found passed out in his car on a Florida highway with the engine running and charged with a DUI that was later plea bargained down.