Tiger Era Not Supposed to End This Way

Tiger Woods Wins 1997 Masters
Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking a 4 feet putt to win the Masters with a record low score of 18 under par on April 13, 1997 at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia (Photo by Stephen Munday/Allsport/Getty Images)

It’s unlikely that Tiger Woods will ever reveal the truth about why he was driving well over the posted 45 mph speed limit at about 7 a.m. on Tuesday Feb. 23, and exactly what caused him to crash his 2021 Genesis SUV.

L.A. officials are still trying to piece it all together, but it appears Woods was speeding when he hit a raised traffic island and lost control, eventually landing some 40 feet off the road.

Tiger Woods Car
A tow truck recovers the vehicle driven by Tiger Woods in Rancho Palos Verdes, CA on Feb. 23, 2021, after a rollover accident. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s not the way the career of golf’s GOAT should end, but at the age of 45 – facing a long and difficult rehabilitation, with an already banged-up body, Woods may never again tee it up on the PGA Tour.

The crash was the latest setback for the American superstar, who was an unstoppable force on the golf course for the first 13 seasons of his iconic career, culminating with a 14th career major victory at the 2008 U.S. Open. The then 32-year old famously won a Monday playoff against Rocco Mediate, playing 18 holes at Torrey Pines on a bum knee and two stress fractures. It was his fourth win in just six starts on the 2008 season.

Tiger Woods 2008 U.S. Open
Tiger Woods celebrates after making birdie on the 18th hole to send it to a playoff against Rocco Mediate during the final round of the US Open Championship at Torrey Pines South Golf Course in San Diego, CA on June 15, 2008. (Photo by Charles Baus/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Woods followed up his injury-shortened 2008 campaign by winning six more Tour titles in 2009, en route to a 10th PGA Tour Player of the year award.

The legend of Tiger Woods was at its peak.

Then, everything changed on Thanksgiving weekend in 2009, and for the next 12 seasons, it’s been a mix of highs and lows for Woods. He lost his marriage; damaged his brand; endured addiction, injuries, and embarrassment; but he also returned to world No. 1, claimed an 11th PGA Tour MVP award (2013); won the Tour Championship (2018), and finally secured his 15th major title at the 2019 Masters – arguably his greatest achievement.

Tiger Woods Wins The Masters
Patrons cheer as Tiger Woods celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th green to win the Masters at Augusta National GC on Apr 14, 2019 in Augusta, GA. Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images

The most recent medical reports state that Woods sustained “significant” injuries to his right leg which required a “long surgical procedure” at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He is said to be in “stable, but guarded condition,” while his prognosis is “unknown” for returning to the quality of life he enjoyed before February 23.

Woods reportedly broke both the tibia and fibula bones in multiple locations. The golfer also appeared to have suffered “open fractures,” which means the bones broke through the skin.

A rod was inserted to stabilize Woods’ tibia bones, while a combination of screws and pins were used for injuries in the ankle and foot.

“As if his body hasn’t endured enough,” said an emotional Jon Rahm, ahead of the WGC-Workday Championship in Florida.

“I just hope he can get out of the hospital after recovery and he can still play with his kids and have a normal life.”

Tiger Woods PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan
Tiger Woods shakes hands with PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan during a tournament elevation and sponsorship announcement ahead of the Genesis Open at Riviera CC on Feb 13, 2019 in Pacific Palisades, CA. (Photo by Keyur Khamar/PGA TOUR)

PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan added, “Most of the players out here on the PGA Tour idolize Tiger. In 1997 when Tiger won the Masters by 12 shots he captivated every golfer’s life.

“News of his accident hits at your heart and soul.”

This unfortunate chapter in Woods’ storied career is the latest in a long history of injuries for the 15-time major champion and 82-time PGA Tour winner.

In December he underwent a microdiscectomy procedure to remove a pressurized disc fragment that was pinching a nerve. It was his fifth back surgery overall and the first since his spinal fusion in April 2017.

On Sunday, during the CBS broadcast of the Genesis Invitational, Woods was interviewed by Jim Nantz, and was asked about his chances for teeing it up at Augusta National in seven weeks.

“God I hope so. I’ve got to get there first,” said Woods, in what now sounds haunting.

“A lot of it is based on my surgeons and doctors and therapist and making sure I do it correctly. This is the only back I’ve got, I don’t have much more wiggle room left.”

That scenario is officially over. Now, the most recognizable sports figure on the planet can only rely of prayers and hope.

“We are praying right now for Tiger to return to a quality of life,” said close friend John Cook on PGA Tour radio. “Not whether he can play golf again.”

NBC’s Paul Azinger, who’ll be broadcasting this weekend’s World Golf Championship, added, “The good news is that it’s not life-threatening.

“This shows you how much the world appreciates elite athletes. Tiger is larger than life. His presence crosses beyond the sport of golf, of all cultures and all walks of life. We are all rooting for him to recover.”

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