Tiger Woods was speeding before crashing SUV, sheriff says

Excessive speed and loss of control were deemed reasons behind Woods's crash

FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2021, file photo, a crane is used to lift a vehicle following a rollover accident involving golfer Tiger Woods, in the Rancho Palos Verdes suburb of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles County sheriff plans to announce Wednesday, April 7, 2021, what caused Woods to crash an SUV in Southern California earlier in the year, seriously injuring himself in the wreck. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu, File)

Tiger Woods was speeding when he crashed an SUV in southern California in February, leaving the golf superstar seriously injured, authorities said on Wednesday.

Woods was driving at between 135 and 140 kilometres an hour on a downhill stretch of road outside Los Angeles that had a speed limit of 72kph, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said.

The stretch of road is known for crashes. There is an emergency exit for runaway vehicles just beyond where Woods crashed.

Sheriff Villanueva blamed the February 23 crash on excessive speed and Woods losing control of the vehicle.

Sheriff's Captain James Powers said there was no evidence that the golfer braked. It is thought Woods may have inadvertently hit the accelerator instead of the brake pedal.

Detectives did not seek search warrants for the golfer's blood samples, which could have been screened for drugs or alcohol, or his mobile phone. Officials said there was no evidence of impairment or of distracted driving.

Investigators, however, did search the SUV's data recorder in the days after the crash.

No traffic citations were issued. The sheriff said Woods gave permission for authorities to reveal details about the crash.

Woods issued a statement shortly after the investigation was officially released, thanking people who helped him at the scene and local authorities behind his care.

"I will continue to focus on my recovery and family, and thank everyone for the overwhelming support and encouragement I've received throughout this very difficult time," he wrote.

Documents show that Woods told deputies he did not know how the crash had occurred and did not remember driving. At the time of the crash, Woods was recovering from a fifth back operation two months earlier.

Woods, who is originally from the Los Angeles area, had been home to host his PGA tournament, the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, when the crash happened.

He was driving an SUV lent to him by the tournament when he struck a raised median in Rolling Hills Estates, just outside Los Angeles. The SUV crossed through two oncoming lanes and uprooted a tree.

Woods is in Florida recovering from multiple surgeries, including a lengthy procedure for multiple shattered tibia and fibula bones in his lower right leg. They were stabilised with a rod in his tibia. Additional injuries to the bones in his foot and ankle required screws and pins.

Woods, 45, has never gone an entire year without playing, dating back to his first PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old in high school. He had hoped to play this year in the Masters tournament, which begins on Thursday.

Rory McIlroy, a four-time major golf champion who lives near Woods in Florida, said he visited him on March 21.

"I spent a couple hours with him, which was nice. It was good to see him," McIlroy said Tuesday from the Masters. "It was good to see him in decent spirits. When you hear of these things and you look at the car and you see the crash, you think he's going to be in a hospital bed for six months. But he was actually doing better than that."

In the weeks after the crash, the sheriff called it “purely an accident” and said there was no evidence of impairment. Sheriff Villanueva faced criticism for labelling the crash an accident before the investigation had concluded.

This is the third time Woods has been involved in a vehicle investigation.

The most notorious was when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree early on the morning after Thanksgiving in 2009. That crash was the start of shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with several 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 charge of driving under the influence and said later he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods pleaded guilty to reckless driving and checked into a clinic for help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder.