The different tales behind the Tiger Woods crash

Rian Noctor

Eleven years ago, Tiger Woods cut a deeply apologetic figure as he confessed to the world’s media details of a scandal that had been brewing for years.

Best known for his clean-cut image and cool professionalism, the golfing superstar’s public confession came in the wake of a car crash on Thanksgiving Day 2009, in which Woods crashed his SUV into a fire hydrant and tree near his home in Florida.

The crash followed his then-wife, Ellen Nordegren, discovering his affair with Rachel Uchitel.

Reports of affairs with other women soon emerged to create a scandal that shook the golfing world to its core, and doing what none had ever achieved on the green, to humble the golfing world’s No.1 juggernaut that Woods’ father, Earl, had been building since his son was two years old.

On Tuesday, February 23rd 2021, Woods was involved in a second crash that has again shaken the golfing world.

This time, the 45-year-old was seriously injured when his SUV crashed and rolled on a steep and twisting road in Los Angeles.

The Los Angeles Police Department used a “jaws of life” tool to cut through the wreckage and extract Woods from a crash that some say he was lucky to survive.

After undergoing several hours of emergency surgery to repair what doctors told Golf Digest were significant orthopaedic injuries; to his lower right leg and ankle.

Woods posted a social media update on Sunday March 16th, saying that he is now recovering after his medical treatment.

More than a decade apart, the public reaction to Woods’ two crashes couldn’t be more different.

In 2009 he was on top of the world. He topped the Forbes list as the World’s highest-paid athlete despite that year missing eight months of competition due to knee surgery.

Despite the enforced time off, he continued to have an unassailable lead at the pinnacle of professional golf rankings.

During this era, it was Woods vs the world of golf; Woods the competitor; the player with a killer instinct; a man who would rarely crack a smile or break character. Woods, the 15-time major champion, was all business all the time.

When his car and reputation crashed in 2009, it began a tough seven years in his personal and professional life, and even when he returned to golf, he wasn’t the same.

His form had deteriorated and so had his health. Injuries to his Achilles and elbow disrupted his 2011 and 2012 seasons. He
seemed to be back to the Woods of old in 2013.

Winning five times during a splendid season of play in 2013, including two World Golf Championships.

But serious back problems began to plague him. Surgeries in 2014 and 2015 to repair pinched nerves did little to ease the pain.

Finally, in late 2017, he underwent spinal fusion surgery, his biggest procedure to date and one which would pave the way for one of the greatest sporting comebacks of all time, despite a DUI arrest in August 2017 and which some hoped was the end of a tumultuous period in his life.

Fast forward to 2018 and the Woods’ return. Something was different though. The once famously solitary pro, no longer kept to himself.

He was visibly happy to be back out on the golf course. And grateful too. He made it known that he had undergone the spinal fusion surgery not with a view to returning to golf, but so that he could play with his kids.

“The only thing they’ve seen is my struggles and the pain I was going through. Now they just want to go play soccer with me. Man, it’s just such a great feeling,” he told reporters after contending down the stretch at the 2018 Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Returning to professional golf was a bonus, he said.

New look family man took advantage of the hiatus in what had been a tumultuous few years.

His return in 2018 culminated in his triumph at the season-ending Tour Championship on the PGA Tour, sparking scenes reminiscent of the old Woods — wading through crowds of fans to get to the 18th green.

The Tour win was just a sign of things to come: in April 2019, Woods donned the famous green jacket for a fifth time after winning the Masters. An emotional embrace with his children after the win symbolized the change in his fortunes and character after all these years.

The fallout—physically, personally, and professionally—from his latest car crash are not yet known.

There has been an outpouring of support from his fellow competitors, most of whom wore red on Sunday at the World Golf Championship at the Concession, to honor Woods and express hope for his recovery.

They included Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas, two of the new generation of American golfers who Woods had taken under his wing and who attributed their success to the help and advice that he has given them.

Woods’ latest crash and his injuries may mean we never see him hit a golf ball again.

In 2009, there was much anger and revulsion. In 2021, there is only thoughts and prayers for Woods’ speedy recovery, one which allows him to live life to the fullest.

Rian Noctor

Image Credit:  Sky Sports