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Golf star Tiger Woods was "lucky to be alive" Tuesday after being seriously injured in a rollover crash near Rancho Palos Verdes, the Los Angeles County sheriff said.
Woods was the sole occupant of a 2021 Genesis GV80 SUV that was traveling north on Hawthorne Boulevard at Blackhorse Road when he crashed just after 7 a.m., authorities said. The vehicle sustained major damage, and Woods had to be extricated from the wreckage by personnel from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, sheriff's officials said.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Woods was traveling at a "relatively greater speed than normal" descending down a hill, noting that the area "has a high frequency of accidents." The sheriff said that there were no skid marks and no signs of braking and that the golfer's vehicle hit the center divider, a curb and a tree in the rollover crash.
Villanueva said Tuesday there was no evidence Woods was impaired at the scene.
Woods was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center where he underwent "a long surgical procedure" on his lower right leg and ankle, according to a statement the golf legend released late Tuesday on Twitter. Doctors had to insert a rod into his leg and placed screws into his foot and ankle, according to the statement, which described Woods as "awake, responsive and recovering."
L.A. County sheriff's Deputy Carlos Gonzalez arrived at the scene first and found Woods struggling to get out of the wreck, he said.
"Mr. Woods was not able to stand under his own power," Gonzalez said, noting that Woods was put on a backboard.
“I spoke to him. I asked him what his name was. He told me his name was Tiger, and at that moment, I immediately recognized him,” Gonzalez said.
Aerial images of the scene showed Woods' vehicle lying about 30 yards off the road on its side.
There did not appear to be skid marks on the northbound side of Hawthorne Boulevard, but the wooden “Welcome to Rolling Hills Estates" sign that had been in the median strip was obliterated. There was a license plate and fluid on the southbound side of the road, and Woods' SUV narrowly missed a telephone pole as it careened up the hillside.
The PGA star was in Los Angeles as the host of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, a golf tournament that concluded Sunday. He did not play in the event, as he was recovering from his fifth back surgery, but told CBS announcer Jim Nantz in an interview during the final round that he hoped to play in the Masters in April.
“God, I hope so. I’ve got to get there first,” Woods said in the interview. “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.”
Woods stayed in Los Angeles County after the Genesis Invitational to participate in a two-day content shoot with Golf Digest/GolfTV. Although he did not hit balls or play any holes Monday, a smiling Woods was with retired NBA star Dwyane Wade and comedian David Spade — both of whom documented it on social media — at Rolling Hills Country Club. Part of the shoot involved Woods giving lessons on the course to celebrities.
A source familiar with the investigation said Woods was staying at the Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes and had left there early Tuesday to head to the Rolling Hills Country Club, about 20 minutes away, for filming. Golf Digest confirmed that Woods was on his way back to the country club for an additional photo and video shoot when the crash occurred.
The crash occurred on a curvy, steep stretch of Hawthorne Boulevard, a major road that cuts through the Palos Verdes Peninsula where signs warn trucks to use lower gears when traveling downhill. The road was closed Tuesday morning as deputies investigated. A bright red tow truck was seen driving up Hawthorne toward the crash site about 1:30 p.m.
Sheriff's deputies were photographing the scene and were set to take measurements and detail the wreckage before it was removed. The front end of the SUV was heavily damaged and the windscreen frame had been removed where Woods was extracted from the vehicle.
Investigators were trying to determine whether any other vehicles were on the road at the time and might have played a role in the crash. Data can also be extracted from the vehicle's computer system, officials said.
Asked about the numerous deputies on scene examining the wreckage and documenting the crash site, Villaneuva said, "Any time there are injuries, an extensive investigation is required. The sheriff said it could take "days to several weeks" to complete the investigation.
— Christina Schoellkopf (@CSchoellkopf) February 23, 2021
Bob Fong, 67, who lives on Blackhorse Road, just north of the crash site, noticed the numerous police cars at Hawthorne Boulevard on Tuesday morning and thought, “It must have been some big celebrity that crashed.”
Fong knows how tricky the curves on the steep Hawthorne Boulevard can be — so much so that near the crash site there is a runoff lane for use in emergencies.
Laureen Swing, a 15-year resident of Rancho Palos Verdes, was walking her dog a block from the intersection of the crash site Tuesday afternoon. She said it's a heavily trafficked area.
"There’s accidents all the time. ... I think it’s almost a dangerous stretch of road, and I always stay on the right side because I’m just afraid of people wanting to go fast," Swing said. "They don’t use turn signals sometimes when they switch lanes. I’ve almost found myself getting into an accident, trying to avoid another car cutting me off on that road. It’s pretty dangerous."
She didn’t see Woods’ crash, but she said a van crossed the median on the same road a few years ago and nearly hit her.
One 54-year resident of Rancho Palos Verdes who requested anonymity and claimed to live across the street from Hawthorne and Blackhorse, called the intersection a "speed trap."
"You don’t know how fast you can descend," the resident said. "I’ve been ticketed not even accelerating, just using the momentum of the hill, and I was speeding. If you’re not familiar with this area, it’s just really easy to go fast. I usually [avoid the intersection] because people will run the light, and I could get nailed making my left turn up here."
Donnie Nelson, a resident of Rolling Hills, said that stretch of Hawthorne is the site of dangerous accidents usually once or twice a year.
“Most of the time, trucks come down the hill and lose their brakes,” he said.
He’s known at least one person who was seriously injured by a trash truck on the hill. The speed limit is 45 mph, but he said “cars fly by you here.”
This is not the first car crash Woods has been involved in. In 2009, as he backed out of his driveway in a gated community near Orlando, Fla., his Cadillac SUV struck a fire hydrant and hit a neighbor’s tree.
In 2017, Woods was arrested in Jupiter, Fla., after police officers found him asleep at the wheel of his car. Woods later said the incident was caused by an “unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.”
For the record:
5:18 PM, Feb. 23, 2021: A previous version of this article misspelled former NBA player Dwyane Wade’s first name as Dwayne.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.