One moment was a nod to his past. The other to his future.
Tiger Woods would never hesitate if asked which means more to him.
As great and grand as the former was — Woods, victorious again at last on the 18th green of Augusta National in April of 2019 — it couldn’t match the scene from last December of Tiger playing in a PGA father-son event with his 11-year-old son, Charlie.
They wore matching outfits. They owned similar swings and mannerisms. They took turns bombing shots around the course, a father so clearly prideful of his son, so clearly cherishing the experience.
We had likely seen the end of the best of Tiger Woods as a competitive golfer, even before he was involved in a serious, single-car accident Tuesday morning in Southern California that left him in surgery dealing with “multiple leg injuries” in a crash that could have been far worse. Woods was "awake, responsive and recovering" at the hospital by Tuesday night, his team said in a statement.
“It was very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez, who responded to the accident.
Since that rousing victory in the 2019 Masters, his first major in a decade, he has won once but hasn't cracked the top 35 in over a year. He was dealing with a back injury that made this year’s Masters, and perhaps beyond, seem unlikely. He was already 45, generally ancient in the sport.
It hardly mattered though.
For years now Tiger has been clear that his motivation as he aged was more about being a father than being a golf champion. When asked about various surgeries to deal with various injuries he always spoke about wanting to have a normal life, one filled with playing with his kids — Charlie and his older sister Sam.
Tiger's darkest hours were when his back left him nearly immobile. Part of the excitement of winning the Masters was that his kids got to see something positive to come from the game of golf — not just endless rehabs, on-course disappointments or hearing old stories about old victories.
“Prior to this comeback they only knew this game caused me a lot of pain,” Tiger said that day when he won the Masters. “I struggled for years and that was all they remembered.”
It was that struggle and the hope that the worst of it was behind him — physically and mentally. It's just one reason why the golf world came to halt as word broke about Woods’ condition. Here was a guy who had come through trials and tumult to seemingly embrace the next stage of life.
Tiger as a Golf Dad. Tiger as a Big Brother of sorts on the tour, where he seemed to be embracing and mentoring younger stars, not merely trying to intimidate them.
Tiger as an elder statesman in the promotion of the sport — he was traveling Tuesday to the second day of a Golf Digest/Golf TV photoshoot, the kind of thing he rarely embraced as a younger man.
He was driving a 2021 Genesis GV80 SUV northbound on Hawthorne Boulevard in Rancho Palos Verdes when he crossed a median, then two southbound lanes before rolling into an embankment.
“The vehicle traveled several hundred feet from the middle divider,” Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Tuesday. “That indicates they were going at a greater speed than normal. However, because it is downhill and it curves, that area has a higher number of accidents than normal.”
The accident occurred at 7:12 a.m. Woods, who was conscious and communicable, needed to be extracted from the SUV and transported by ambulance to nearby Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. Police said he was wearing a seat belt.
Gonzalez said Woods was “unable to stand” following the accident although he “seemed lucid and calm.”
“I asked him what his name was,” Gonzalez said. “He said his name was Tiger. That's when I immediately recognized him.”
“Anytime you are involved in a single-vehicle accident, with rollovers and that kind of damage to the vehicle with broken legs and lacerations you are going to be in severe pain,” L.A. County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said.
Woods’ longtime agent, Mark Steinberg, stated that Woods was in surgery and dealing with “multiple leg injuries.”
Just how serious remains to be seen. And that’s what has everyone on edge.
Villanueva noted that, “there was no evidence of impairment at this point in time.” In 2017, Woods was arrested in Florida for driving under the influence. Toxicology reports revealed he had five different drugs in his system, most prescribed to help him recover from back surgery.
That may have been rock bottom. At least that’s what Woods' fans hope. What’s happened since, to the outsider, has been a storybook. The more calm and mature presence on the course. The victory in Augusta. The public time with his children.
The golf, the golf hardly mattered any more. It matters even less now.
If we get to see Tiger Woods on a golf course again, the first priority is to see him playing with his kids, watching his kids, celebrating his kids. That’s the life Tiger Woods has fought to prioritize of late.
And that's the life his legion of fans are hoping to see him still get to live to its fullest.
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