Tiger Woods awake after being hospitalized in rollover crash in Palos Verdes; seat belt likely saved his life, deputy says

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Tiger Woods is awake and recovering after suffering multiple leg injuries and being hospitalized in a solo-vehicle rollover crash in the Palos Verdes area on Tuesday morning, authorities said.

Woods, 45, was the lone occupant in the SUV when it crashed about 7:12 a.m. in the area of Hawthorne Boulevard and Blackhorse Road, on the border of Rancho Palos Verdes and Rolling Hills Estates, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. A neighbor was the first person to call 911 to report the incident.

The vehicle, a 2021 Genesis GV80 SUV, was headed north on a twisty, downhill stretch of Hawthorne that has a higher frequency of accidents, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said at an afternoon news conference.

There was no indication of skid marks or braking just prior to the crash, according to the sheriff.

“Apparently the first contact was with the center median,” where the mid-size SUV hit a sign, he said. From there, the SUV crossed “into the opposing lane of traffic, hit the curb, hit a tree and there was several rollovers during that process.”

The airbags went off and the inside of the vehicle stayed basically intact, and that “gave him a cushion to survive the crash,” Villanueva said.

Crews used a hand tool to remove the front windshield and get Woods out of the vehicle, said Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Sean Ferguson, correcting the sheriff’s earlier report that first responders had used the “jaws of life” to extricate the golfing legend.

Sky5 video over the scene showed the heavily damaged gray SUV on its side in a brushy area off the side of the roadway, down a slight hillside.

Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, the first to arrive on scene, said Woods was conscious and lucid when he first contacted him, but the golfer was unable to stand on his own. Responding crews from the Fire Department put Woods onto a backboard when they moved him from the wreckage, Gonzalez told reporters at the afternoon news briefing.

When the rollover occurred, Woods was wearing a seat belt, which likely saved his life, according to the deputy.

“The nature of his vehicle, the fact that he was wearing a seat belt — I would say that it greatly increased the likelihood that it saved his life,” Gonzalez said. “It’s very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive.”

He was transported by ambulance to nearby Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and underwent surgery, according to officials and the golfer’s manager, Mark Steinberg.

A statement posted on Woods’ Twitter page Tuesday night said he was awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room.

The golfer suffered multiple “open fractures” to his lower right leg, requiring a rod to be placed in his tibia, and screws and pins in his ankle for stability, Dr. Anish Mahajan, chief medical officer at Harbor-UCLA, said in the statement.

“Trauma to the muscle and soft-tissues of the leg required surgical release of the covering of the muscles to  relieve pressure due to swelling,” Mahajan wrote.

His injuries were not considered to be life-threatening, according to the PGA Tour, which released a statement following the crash.

“On behalf of the PGA Tour and our players, Tiger is in our prayers and will have our full support as he recovers,” the statement read.

It’s unclear what caused the wreck, but there was no immediate evidence of impairment, according to Villanueva. He noted that it could take days or even weeks to determine the cause.

Hours after the crash, investigators were still combing Hawthorne Boulevard and the surrounding area searching for evidence and other clues. The road near the crash was shut down to traffic during the investigation.

One resident told KTLA that the stretch of Hawthorne Boulevard, with its four lanes bisected by a center median, can be dangerous because it’s curvy and on a slope.

“It’s prone to high speed if you’re not careful,” he said. “The one thing that all of us who live in this area recognize is we go through brakes a lot, because this grade and the speeds that you pick up, you typically have to ride your brakes as you’re coming down.”

“Even if you don’t ride — if you’re just driving kind of typical speeds, but not riding your brakes — it’s easy to hit 60-65 as you’re coming through some of these turns,” the resident added. “And the road curves, and if you’re not paying attention, it’s easy to miss that turn and/or overcorrect and find yourself in a bad situation.”

The speed limit is 45 mph along that stretch, but Gonzalez said he’s caught cars going up to 80 mph while he’s conducted traffic enforcement in the area.

It’s not known how fast the SUV was traveling when it hit the median.

In the aftermath of the crash, two vehicles stopped by the side of the road and both were hit by another car, according to both agencies. No injuries were reported.

Woods was in Los Angeles over the weekend as the tournament host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera, where he presented the trophy. Photos from the crash scene showed the driver’s side door of the Genesis SUV he crashed Tuesday was emblazoned with the tournament’s logo.

He was to spend Monday and Tuesday filming with Discovery-owned GOLFTV, with whom he has an endorsement contract. One tweet on Monday showed him in a cart smiling with David Spade. According to Golf Digest, also owned by Discovery, the TV shoot was on-course lessons to celebrities, such as Spade and Dwyane Wade. He did not play.

The 15-time major champion last played Dec. 20 in the PNC Championship with his 11-year-old son, Charlie.

He had a fifth surgery on his back, a microdiscectomy, two days before Christmas and gave no indication when he would return. The Masters is April 8-11 and when asked if he would be there during the CBS telecast, Woods replied, “God, I hope so.”

This is the third time Woods has been involved in a car investigation. The most notorious was the early morning after Thanksgiving in 2009, when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree.

That was the start of shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with multiple women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorships, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi and did not return to golf for five months.

In May 2017, 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 later 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.

Woods has not won since the Zozo Championship in Japan in fall 2019, and he has reduced his playing schedule in recent years because of injuries. The surgery Tuesday would be his 10th.

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