By Ray Richardson
LOS ANGELES — Tiger Woods is generating news at the Masters, even though golf’s biggest star is not competing in PGA’s signature event this weekend.
A day before the Masters’ opening round on April 8, the Los Angeles County Sherriff’s Department announced that “excessive speed” was the primary cause of Woods’ near-fatal, single-car crash on Feb. 23 in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Sherriff Alex Villanueva said Woods’ 2021 Genesis SUV was traveling between “84 and 87 miles per hour” in a 45 mph zone when he lost control of the car on a downhill stretch of the road near Rolling Hills Estates.
“Mr. Woods was driving at a speed unsafe for the road conditions,” Villanueva said at a press conference April 7. “His inability to negotiate a curve in the roadway is the primary reason for the crash.”
Investigators determined the cause of the crash after examining the vehicle’s data recorder or “Black Box.” The results countered theories that Woods might have been distracted or impaired when his car veered into the opposite lanes of traffic, struck a tree and flipped over several times before landing in an embankment.
Shortly after Villanueva’s announcement, Woods posted a message on his Twitter page thanking the Sherriff’s Department and the first responders for treating him at the scene and getting him to a hospital. Woods did not mention the circumstances surrounding the crash.
“I will continue to focus on my recovery and family,” Woods wrote. “I thank everyone for the overwhelming support and encouragement I’ve received throughout this very difficult time.”
Villanueva repeatedly insisted during the news conference that Woods did not receive preferential treatment in the investigation, saying there was no probable cause for investigators to obtain warrants for Woods’ cell phone records or bloodwork to determine if he was distracted or impaired at the time.
Villanueva said there was no blood drawn from Woods because “there was no sign of impairment.”
“Without the signs of impairment, we don’t get to the point where we can actually author a search warrant and develop the probable cause to get that,” Villanueva said.
Sheriff’s Capt. James Powers of the Lomita Sheriff’s Station, restated that “there was no evidence of any impairment.”
“There was no odor of alcohol, there were no open containers in the vehicle, and there were no narcotics or any evidence of medication in the vehicle or on his person,” Powers said.
“Due to his injuries, and the traumatic nature of his injuries, it would not be appropriate to do any type of field sobriety test,” Powers said.
Woods, 45, underwent multiple surgeries after suffering compound fractures to his right leg and a broken right ankle. He was flown to his home in Jupiter Island, Fla., to finish his recovery.
Several PGA golfers who live near Woods have visited the five-time Masters champion. Prior to the accident, Woods was planning to play in the Masters. His last Masters title was in 2019.
“I’m sure he’s going to put everything he has into trying to be ready to play here next year,” golfer Rory McIlroy said of Woods’ hopes for the 2022 Masters.
McIlroy and Justin Thomas are considered two of Woods’ closest friends on the PGA tour. The trio often plays practice rounds together at the Masters to tune up. Thomas visited Woods last week before heading to Augusta, Georgia, to prepare for the Masters.
“He’s bummed out about not playing this week,” Thomas said of Woods at a pre-Masters press conference April 6. “It’s starting to sink with him that he won’t be with us.”
Doctors have not given a timetable on when Woods might be able to return to the course. The extent of Woods’ injuries will likely sideline him the rest of the year and leave his return uncertain for 2022.
Woods, who turned pro at age 20, also has had five back surgeries. The fifth surgery was performed two months before the Feb. 23 crash.
City News Service also contributed to this story.
Ray Richardson is a contributing writer for The Wave. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.