LOS ANGELES: US golf legend Tiger Woods was recovering in a hospital on Tuesday after surgery for serious leg injuries sustained in a car crash that law enforcement officials said he was lucky to survive.
Woods was driving in a Los Angeles suburb on a road notorious for fatal accidents when his car crashed, rolling several times.
“He is currently awake, responsive, and recovering in his hospital room,” his representatives said in a statement on Woods’s Twitter account late on Tuesday.
In the same statement, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center chief medical officer Anish Mahajan said Woods underwent surgery to repair “significant orthopaedic injuries” to his lower right leg and ankle.
This included the insertion of a rod into his tibia and the use of “a combination of screws and pins” to stabilise his foot and ankle, the statement read.
Woods did not appear to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the early-morning incident, said Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
No other vehicles or passengers were involved in the crash, which occurred on a steep stretch of road known as an accident “hotspot,” where Woods was travelling at “a greater speed than normal,” the sheriff added.
“Apparently the first contact was with the centre median, and from there (the car) crossed into the opposing lane of traffic, hit the curb, hit a tree, and there was several rollovers during that process,” said Villanueva. He did not say what caused the crash.
The car ended up several hundred feet from the initial impact, lying on its side on a patch of grass some distance off the road, with its hood badly damaged.
Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, the first officer to arrive at the scene, said it was “very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive.”
Gonzalez found Woods trapped in his vehicle but conscious, appearing “calm and lucid” and able to identify himself to the deputy as “Tiger.”
“It is my understanding that he had serious injuries to both legs,” said Los Angeles County fire chief Daryl Osby.
Firefighters and paramedics extricated Woods from the wreckage of his SUV and transported him with a neck collar and backboard to a local hospital via road.
Woods, one of the most successful golfers of all time, has won 15 major championships.
He recently underwent his fifth back surgery, and said he was uncertain if he would be able to complete his latest injury comeback in time to play at April’s Masters.
“On behalf of the PGA Tour and our players, Tiger is in our prayers and will have our full support as he recovers,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said in a statement.
Woods was in the Los Angeles area for his annual Genesis Invitational golf tournament at the Riviera Country Club, and was driving a courtesy car on the morning of the crash.
The crash happened near the hilly Palos Verdes peninsula, at the bottom of a stretch of road which has runaway truck ramps for drivers who lose control going downhill.
The section has become notorious for fatal accidents over the years.
News of the crash spread rapidly around the sports world and beyond, with figures inside and outside golf swift to send their prayers and best wishes.
Skier Lindsey Vonn, Woods’ former girlfriend, tweeted: “Praying for TW right now.”
“Sending my prayers to @TigerWoods and his family tonight — here’s to a speedy recovery for the GOAT of golf,” said former US president Barack Obama.
Fellow ex-president Donald Trump, speaking to Fox, urged Woods to “get better and get out there because we all miss him.”
Woods is the winner of 82 US PGA titles, level with Sam Snead for the all-time record.
In 2000-01, while aged just 25, Woods became the first man to hold the US Open, British Open, the USPGA and the Masters titles at the same time.
“We want to offer him our heartfelt support and prayers at this difficult time,” tweeted Nicklaus.
“Please join us in wishing Tiger a successful surgery and all the best for a full recovery.” — AFP