By Don Wanlass
Tiger Woods spent last week as the host of the Genesis Invitational Golf Tournament, professional golf’s annual stop at the Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.
As part of his host duties, Woods went on the air with CBS’ Jim Nantz during the telecast Feb. 21. Sidelined recently by his latest back surgery, Woods responded to Nantz’ prodding about the upcoming Masters Tournament in Augusta, Georgia.
It’s his favorite golf tournament and Nantz wanted to know if Woods would be ready for it.
“It’s seven weeks away,” Woods said. “We’ll see.”
We won’t see him at the Masters in six weeks. Whether we ever see arguably the greatest golfer ever on the golf course again remains to be seen after Woods was seriously hurt in a single-car accident Feb. 23 on Hawthorne Boulevard in Rancho Palos Verde.
According to reports, Woods was driving a Genesis Invitational courtesy car, a 2021 Hyundai Genesis SUV, when he lost control and struck a center divider. Woods’ SUV careened across the roadway, striking a tree and rolling over before landing on its side in some brush.
Woods had to be extricated from the vehicle by Los Angeles County firefighters and paramedics, then was taken to Harbor-UCLA Medical Center by ambulance where he underwent surgery.
Woods underwent a long surgical procedure on his lower right leg and ankle by orthopedic trauma specialists, according to a tweet on his account that was posted at 9:30 p.m., about 14 hours after the accident.
The surgery included “comminuted open fractures affecting both the upper and lower portions of the tibia and fibula bones were stabilized by inserting a rod into the tibia,” Dr. Anish Mahajan, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center’s chief medical officer, said in a statement posted on the tweet.
“Additional injuries to the bones of the foot and ankle were stabilized with a combination of screws and pins. Trauma to the muscle and soft-tissue of the leg required surgical release of the covering of the muscles to relieve pressure due to swelling.”
Woods was described in the tweet as “awake, responsive, and recovering in his hospital room.”
According to Los Angeles County Fire Department Chief Daryl Osby, Woods was conscious when crews arrived on the scene and used a pry-bar and an ax to remove him from the heavily damaged vehicle through the shattered windshield.
The cause of the crash remained under investigation, although Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters there was no immediate evidence that Woods was impaired in any way.
Villanueva said the investigation would determine if Woods may have been on a cellphone or distracted in any way. It was unclear if he had been speeding, although Villanueva noted that the vehicle was in a particularly accident-prone area due to the curving downhill roadway, and that it traveled “several hundred feet” after striking the center median.
Woods definitely will miss the Masters this year. It is doubtful he will recover in time to play in any of the other so-called major tournaments (The British Open, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship are the other three majors) this year and it will probably take arduous rehabilitation for Woods to be able to walk a golf course again.
If this is the end of his career, he still has some of the most impressive credentials ever recorded in golf.
He has won 82 tournaments in his career, which ties him with Sam Snead for the most ever. He won 15 major tournaments, second to Jack Nicklaus’ 18.
And he became the superstar that golf needed after Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, the two players who helped make televised golf a weekly occurrence in the 1960s, were long past their prime.
I was a casual golf fan before Woods came along. I would watch the major tournaments and even went to Riviera a couple of times to see what used to be called the Los Angeles Open before most tournaments sold naming rights to corporations.
And, yes, Tiger Woods had a lot to do with that. He made corporate sponsors want to attach their names to golf tournaments. Prior to that period, many golf tournaments were named for celebrity sponsors who lent their names to tournaments and directed the money raised by the tournaments to their favorite charities.
In those days, Bing Crosby hosted the annual tournament at Pebble Beach, Bob Hope had his name on the annual stop in Palm Springs, the San Diego tournament was named for singer Andy Williams and the L.A. Open was the Glenn Campbell tournament.
When the corporations replaced the celebrities, the prize money went up. That was something all current golfers should thank Woods for. The same for sponsorship money. As much prize money as Woods won on the golf course, he made more through sponsorships.
He has put a lot of that money to good use, starting the TGR Foundation, which funds the TGR Learning Lab, and the Earl Woods Scholar Program, named after his father, who started teaching Woods to golf when he could barely walk.
A native of the Orange County community of Cypress, Woods learned to golf on a course owned by the U.S. Navy next to the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos. His father, a career Navy man, had access to the course.
When he was 2, Woods putted against Bob Hope on the Mike Douglas television show. The next year he shot a 48 over nine holes on the Los Alamitos course.
He won the U.S. Junior Amateur Tournament when he was 15 and defended his title the next year. That was the year he first played in the L.A. Open (he missed the cut). In 1993 he came the first player to win the U.S. Junior Amateur title three times.
After graduating from Western High School in Anaheim he went to Stanford, where he played for two years, winning the NCAA individual golf championship in 1996.
He turned pro in August 1996 and won the Masters eight months later, becoming the youngest player, at 21, to ever win the prestigious tournament.
His list of accomplishments goes on and on. Eighty-two PGA Tour wins, 41 European Tour wins, 25 other wins to go with 21 amateur tournament wins.
He was last seen on the course playing with his son, Charlie, 11, in a December tournament near his home in Orlando, Florida. The tournament featured former major tournament winners paired with a family member.
Charlie eagled the third hole after hitting a long drive that reached the green and hitting the center of the cup with his putt. On another putt, which he drained, he followed his shot into the hole, much like his father.
Charlie may turn out to be Tiger’s golfing legacy.
And if Tiger never plays again, he will still be remembered as one of — if not the best — the best to ever play the game.
City News Service contributed to this story.