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The first TV report Tuesday afternoon showing Tiger Woods’ SUV on its side after his rollover accident caused instant flashbacks to Kobe Bryant’s tragic death 13 months ago in a helicopter crash.
You feared the worst after hearing that Woods had to be extricated from the wreckage.
Fortunately, Woods was conscious after the accident, and his injuries weren’t deemed life-threatening, according to reports. He was hospitalized with serious leg injuries, according to a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman, though details of his condition were unavailable as of early Tuesday evening.
“He was fortunate to come out of this alive,” said Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, a first responder to the scene.
Hopefully Woods will recover over time, and obviously it’s too soon to know whether he’ll be able to play professional golf again.
If not, a game-changing career is over too soon.
And if Woods does return, it will be a comeback like no other.
As sports icons go, perhaps no one has gone through the ringer and come out the other end as beloved as Woods has in his long and winding career.
His successes were well-chronicled from the moment he changed the sport with his first PGA Tour victory in 1996, and his failings were so public, we seemed to know every character flaw and misstep he made.
Woods’ Teflon image was punctured long ago, and he quickly became a cautionary tale of how fame and fortune can bring even the brightest stars to their knees.
But once we stopped looking at Woods as superhuman and realized he made mistakes and had lapses in judgment like everyone else, he gradually became likable again, at least for those who believe in the power of redemption.
Humbled by public humiliation, a series of injuries and the abrupt end to his domination of the tour, Woods turned into an unlikely underdog as easy to root for as a million-to-one shot.
All of this was on display in the recent HBO documentary, “Tiger,” a painful look at his life from the moment he appeared on “The Mike Douglas Show” as a 2-year-old, to coming out of his shell as a student-athlete at Stanford, to his rise and fall as a golf legend and American celebrity.
It even had the perfect Hollywood ending, with Woods ending his drought in majors by winning the 2019 Masters in front of an appreciative crowd at Augusta National, capping one of the greatest comeback stories in sports history.
But Woods’ career seemingly was far from over, even if his days of dominance were long gone. Just Sunday, we heard him talking with CBS broadcaster Jim Nantz during the Genesis Invitational, a tournament he hosts, about rehabbing from his fifth back surgery and hoping to compete in the upcoming Masters, 24 years after his historic win as a 21-year-old.
Will Woods be competing in Augusta in seven weeks, Nantz asked?
“God, I hope so,” he said. “I’ve got to get there first.”
Woods added it would be up to his surgeons, doctors and therapists as to whether he could begin playing again so soon.
“This is the only back I’ve got, so I don’t know how much more wiggle room I have left here,” he said.
Whether he had a realistic chance or not after another layoff, just having Woods playing in another Masters was something all golf fans were looking forward to.
Watching golf without Tiger is like eating cereal without milk. It’s just not the same.
The last time we got a chance to see Tiger in action was just before Christmas in the PNC Championship, in which he and his then-11-year-old son, Charlie, competed in a field of major champions playing alongside family members. Watching Charlie emulate his dad with his swing and his stance was one of the sweetest scenes of the pandemic-marred sports year that was 2020.
“I don’t think words can describe it,” Woods said. “Just the fact that we were able to have this experience together, Charlie and I, it’s memories for a lifetime.”
The idea of Woods as doting father was in stark contrast to his well-earned image as philandering husband, and some no doubt never will forgive or forget the selfish behavior he exhibited at the peak of his career.
But for those who felt Woods was sufficiently humbled by his epic fall from grace, watching a proud father and his young son playing together was transfixing, and the dream scenario of Charlie getting his own tour card in a decade or so and competing against his dad didn’t seem quite so far-fetched.
We’re not sure what will happen now. No one can predict when or if Woods will be back. All we can do is pray for a full recovery and many more years of creating family memories.
It may be a cliche to say every day is a gift, but days like Tuesday remind us once again.