Tiger Woods’ future in competitive golf has been thrust into considerable doubt, but at least the former world No 1 has begun what appears set to be a long recovery from a serious car accident on Tuesday.
Woods, 45, suffered “sufficient orthopaedic injuries” to his right leg when his SUV crashed outside Los Angeles on Tuesday morning local time. The American had to be "extricated from the wreck" by firefighters and paramedics before being taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Centre.
A statement posted on Woods’ official Twitter account early on Wednesday said he had undergone a "long surgical procedure" to his lower right leg and ankle and was "awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room".
In the same tweet, the chief medical officer of Harbor-UCLA, Dr Anish Mahajan, said that compound fractures of Woods’ tibia and fibula – the two bones below the knee – were stabilised with a rod, and screws and pins were used to stabilise additional injuries to his foot and ankle.
Maharani said also that trauma to the muscle and other soft tissue of the leg "required surgical release of the covering of the muscles to relieve pressure due to swelling".
Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies responding to the wreck found no immediate indication Woods was under the influence of alcohol or drugs before losing control of his vehicle. He was reported to have been “calm and lucid” despite being trapped inside the SUV.
“The nature of his vehicle, the fact that he was wearing his seatbelt, I would say it greatly increased the likelihood it saved his life,” said Carlos Gonzalez, the first LA county deputy to respond to the scene. “I’ve been doing this for a while and I’ve seen fatal traffic collisions, so I will say it’s very fortunate that Mr Woods was able to come out of this alive.”
Alex Villanueva, the Los Angeles county sheriff, said Woods' vehicle was “going at a relatively greater speed than normal”, although, when asked if the golf star was under the influence at the time of the crash, he replied that there was “no evidence of impairment at this point in time”. Villanuevadescribed that stretch of roadway as "one of our trouble spots”.
Woods, who has not played competitively since November’s Masters, hosted the PGA Tour's Genesis Invitational at the Riviera Country Club at the weekend. Golf Digest reported he had been shooting a TV programme on Monday at the Rolling Hills Country Club and was due to resume filming the following day.
Former US president Barack Obama, boxing great Mike Tyson, 23-time tennis Grand Slam champion Serena Williams and basketball star Stephen Curry were among the many who soon posted messages of support on social media.
"Sending my prayers to @TigerWoods and his family tonight - here's to a speedy recovery for the GOAT of golf,” President Obama wrote. “If we've learned anything over the years, it's to never count Tiger out."
Actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who was one of the celebrities filming with Woods at Rolling Hills, posted: "Prayers up for the GOAT @TigerWoods who was in an accident this morning. Was just with him yesterday. Don't take not even a MOMENT for granted! I know you're good because your Tiger within is a beast!!!"
One of sports most prominent athletes, Woods is a 15-time major champion, with his most recent marking a remarkable personal comeback at the 2019 Masters. His major haul is second only to Jack Nicklaus, who won 18.
Nicklaus tweeted: "[Wife] 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."
Speaking on Tuesday afternoon at the WGC-Workday Championship, world No 3 and close friend Justin Thomas said: “I’m sick to my stomach. It hurts to see one of your closest friends get in an accident. I just hope he’s all right. Just worry for his kids. I’m sure they’re struggling.”
Woods has two children: daughter Sam, 13, and son Charlie, 12. The five-time Masters champion, who held the top spot in golf's world rankings for a record total of 683 weeks, was involved in another car accident in 2009, when he hit a fire hydrant and then crashed into a tree in Florida.
The incident led to revelations Woods had been unfaithful to his then wife, Elin Nordegren, which prompted the golfing superstar to lose numerous major sponsors. He took an extended break from the sport to address issues in his private life.
In May 2017, Woods was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in Florida after he was found passed out in his car. He later pled guilty to reckless driving, saying his condition was caused by prescribed medications.