Tiger Woods: One Year On From His Life-Changing And Mysterious Car Crash

Can Tiger defy the odds one more time? One year on, we look back on the car crash sent shockwaves through the world of sport

Tiger Woods: One Year On From His Life-Changing And Mysterious Car Crash
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As far as anniversaries go, this is a rather unpleasant one. But it could have been so much worse. The Los Angeles Sheriff's Department admitted as much. It was also revealed that, for a while at least, it was 50/50 whether doctors would be able to save his right leg from amputation. So, while the best of Tiger Woods from a golfing perspective is categorically behind us, that he is still around and able to walk, able to be a dad, able to (hopefully) return to the PGA Tour in some limited capacity, should be celebrated.

Despite that, there is still much unknown about the events that put the mercurial champion in this position. We know he was driving at almost double the 45mph speed limit on a dangerous strip of LA road. We know he lost control of his car, veered across lanes and flipped several times before being halted by a tree. And we know he had to be extradited from the wreckage that was his SUV and suffered comminuted open fractures to his right leg and ankle. 

It’s what we don’t know that shrouds the whole thing in mystery. After the accident, Woods told on-scene officers he had no recollection of the crash. Black box data retrieved showed that Woods failed to apply the brake, meaning he perhaps hit the wrong pedal in a moment of panic. But other than that, it’s a bit of a guessing game.

Tiger Woods' crashed car being recovered from the scene

Tiger's totalled car being recovered from the scene

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Despite his past transgressions, Woods wasn’t breathalysed nor was a blood test done to inform a toxicology report. Given his history and the fact he was not long clear from a fifth back operation, that might have been prudent.

We will likely never know the exact chain of events that led to the scarcely believable scene. But what has been very believable is the limited insight given by the 15-time major champion.

"I'll never play full-time again"

Updates were few and far between as he began his latest chapter of rehab. That he is so accustomed to such a process is grim, but it surely helped his cause. Three months in a medical bed was followed by some time in a wheelchair before he progressed onto crutches.

Then came that swing video in November, which put the golfing world on alert. However, true to form, barely a week later, in his first interview since the accident, Woods told Golf Digest he would never return to playing full-time golf, instead he would “pick and choose, just like Mr Hogan did.”

Less than a month after that, rumours that Woods was considering pegging it up for the second consecutive year alongside his son, Charlie, in the parent-child PNC Championship were confirmed, as the pair defied their obvious disadvantage to finish second. He let Charlie take the lead when he could and rode in a cart for the duration, but he looked bloody good. Far better than we could have expected.

So good, in fact, that the hyperbolic world of modern golf hit restart on the quest to break Jack’s major record. The 15-time major champion was, however, keen to reiterate in the aftermath that he still couldn't walk 18 holes let alone compete over 72 against the current cream of the crop.

Tiger and Charlie Woods at the 2021 PNC Championship

Alongside son Charlie, Tiger showed glimpses of his former self at last year's PNC Championship

(Image credit: Getty Images)

An Open Championship return?

As host of last week’s Genesis Invitational, the 46-year-old was on-site and in good spirits. Ahead of the first round, he told reporters he will be back, although couldn't yet give any indication as to when. He's still in a cart playing "weekend warrior golf" as he calls it but continues to see signs of encouragement, admitting he "is a lot stronger" and "able to hit more shots" than was possible in December's PNC tournament.

And if anyone can make the long journey back to the summit, it’s Woods. An appearance at The Masters is certain - even if only for the champions dinner and possibly the par-3 contest - and there is genuine hope we may see him walk across the Swilcan Bridge at St Andrews this year as the Home of Golf hosts the 150th playing of the game’s oldest and greatest championship. If anyone surveying the wreckage moments after his crash one year ago had uttered those words, they’d have been laughed out of whatever room they were occupying.

So, a year down the line, we, as golf fans, have plenty to be thankful for, as does Tiger. He is alive and well and walking unassisted with all his limbs intact. He still has “a long way to go”, but that there is an end goal that involves playing professional golf again is nothing short of a miracle.

Andrew Wright
Freelance News Writer

A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he decided to go freelance and now covers a variety of topics for Golf Monthly. 

Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.

As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.

What's in Andy's bag?

Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)

3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)

Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)

Irons: Mizuno mp32 (4-PW)

Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)

Putter: Titleist Scotty Cameron Newport 2.5

Ball: TaylorMade TP5x