Provoking the concern and sympathy of millions, Tiger Woods, perhaps the world’s most famous athlete, has narrowly escaped death in a Los Angeles car accident. While the golfer appears to have avoided life-threatening injuries, the damage to his lower limbs is extensive and may bring an end to his career.
Woods was motoring on the Rancho Palos Verdes promontory, a posh residential enclave on the south coast of Los Angeles that is renowned for its moderate, windswept climate and spectacular scenery. But breathtaking vistas often must be accessed by perilous roads, and Palos Verdes is notorious for hairpin turns and steep declines. At the specific location of this incident, 13 automobile accidents have been reported to the police just since January 2020.
Woods, of course, has dominated golf since his first major triumph at the 1997 Masters. He is as commanding a figure as Michael Jordan was in basketball and Tom Brady continues to be in football.
At 15, Woods’ triumphs in major tournaments are exceeded only by the 18 of Jack Nicklaus. They substantially overshadow Ben Hogan’s nine, Tom Watson’s eight and the seven each of Sam Snead and Arnold Palmer. At 82, Woods’ total tally of PGA victories is equaled only by Snead.
Furthermore, Woods won the 2000 U.S. Open by a staggering 15 strokes, one of many record-obliterating performances. He has been the leading season money winner 10 times, and his chronicle of 14 consecutive seasons with at least one PGA victory is bested only by Palmer and Nicklaus at 17 each.
Woods’ injuries include a broken right tibia, requiring the insertion of metal pins and screws. The golfer recently had his fifth major back surgery, and the accident may have jarred his torso yet again.
Can Woods overcome this misfortune and return to tournament play? It is way too early to tell, but an inspiring precedent was provided by Hogan.
In 1949, while en route to their home in Fort Worth, Texas, in a pea soup fog, Hogan and his wife, Valerie Hogan, rammed head-on into a Greyhound bus. Cars in those days lacked air bags, anti-lock brakes, collapsible steering columns and even seat belts, and were veritable deathtraps. Indeed, Hogan’s instinctive, bodily turn to shield Valerie undoubtedly saved his own life as well. The steering column would have crushed his chest.
So devastating were Hogan’s injuries that the initial police report was that he had died. The initial medical prognosis was that he would be lucky even to walk again, much less play championship golf.
The golfer never made a complete recovery, and for the rest of his life was menaced by sore limbs and blood clots. But 11 months after the accident, he returned to tournament play with amazing swagger. Of Hogan’s nine major victories, six were after 1949.
Woods has had more than his share of difficulty in recent years, yet he rebounded strongly to win the Masters in 2019. Can he do this again? I wouldn’t bet against him.