Tiger Woods car accident: Revisiting 2021 crash that is still affecting five-time Masters winner

The days of seeing prime Tiger Woods out on the golf course are long gone.

The five-time Masters champion entered the 2024 tournament with a number of health issues, including ailments to his ankle and back. Despite operating at less than 100% health, Woods managed to make the weekend cut for a record 24th consecutive time, etching himself deeper into the Masters history books. 

With that said, the 15-time major champion was unable to keep up in Saturday’s Round 3. Woods put together by far his worst round ever at Augusta National, shooting a 10-over par 82 to enter Sunday’s final round at 11 over on the tournament. Wood’s highest previous round was 78, so the 82 posted Saturday made for an unfamiliar scene. 

With that said, Woods on his worst day still makes him one of the greatest golfers in the world. He’ll have a chance to rebound Sunday to end the weekend at Augusta. 

“My team will get me ready,” Woods said after Saturday. “It will be a long night and a long warmup session, but we’ll be ready.”

The decline of Woods is not anything new. He hasn’t played in nearly as many PGA Tour events as in the past due to the injuries. At 48 years old, Woods isn’t getting any younger, and the days of contending for a top spot may be long behind him.

While there have been a number of ailments for Woods, his decline started back in 2021 when he suffered career-threatening leg injuries in a horrific car accident. The Sporting News revisits the crash and his recovery since then.

MORE: Tiger Woods finishes with career-worst score at Augusta at Saturday’s Round 3

Tiger Woods car crash

On the morning of Feb. 23, 2021, Tiger Woods was involved in a single-car accident that resulted in “major damage” to the vehicle.

The golfer suffered serious leg injuries in the accident and had to be extracted from the car using an ax and other tools, Los Angeles County Fire Department chief Daryl Osby told CNN.

Woods was first discovered by a neighborhood man who said the golfer was unconscious after the crash. First responders said that Woods was alert when they arrived at the scene of the crash. He was taken to a hospital via ambulance after the accident.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that Woods was “lucky to be alive” after the accident.

The next day, Feb. 24, Woods’ team released a statement on X, formerly Twitter, announcing that he suffered multiple fractures to the upper and lower fibula and tibia in his right leg. The injuries had to be stabilized with a rod, and he also needed screws and pins inserted into his foot and ankle.

On March 5, Woods revealed in a statement that he did not have any memory of the crash or driving that morning, per the Associated Press.

Woods told deputies — both at the wreckage and later at the hospital — that he did not know how the crash occurred and didn’t remember driving, according to the affidavit.

In April, it was revealed by Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva that Woods was traveling 84 to 87 mph in a 45 mph zone, confirming that speeding was the cause of the crash.

“The primary causal factor for this traffic collision was driving at a speed unsafe for the road conditions and the inability to negotiate the curve of the roadway,” the sheriff said at a news conference.

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Tiger Woods recovery

The accident left Woods’ future as a golfer very much in doubt, with an emergency physician saying at the time that it was “unclear” whether he would be able to golf again.

“Can he come back from this? It’s unclear at this point,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told USA Today. “We don’t know. But it’s going to be a long rehab period and it’s going to be painful. We can assume that he’s going to go through bumps and twists and turns.

“It’s really unclear. But at least he has life right now.”

Two days after the accident, Woods was transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 18 miles from downtown Los Angeles, for “continuing orthopedic care and recovery,” per his doctors. Woods’ X account followed up a day later by announcing that he had “received follow-up procedures” that were deemed “successful.”

Woods discussed his rehab in an interview with Golf Digest in May 2021. He called recovery from the injuries “painful”, even though he was three months removed from the crash.

“This has been an entirely different animal,” Woods said. “I understand more of the rehab processes because of my past injuries, but this was more painful than anything I have ever experienced.”

In November 2021, Woods revealed in an interview that he is unlikely to ever return to the PGA Tour full-time. It was a combination of his injuries and his age.

“I think something that is realistic is playing the tour one day — never full time, ever again — but pick and choose, just like Mr. (Ben) Hogan did. Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that,” Woods said. “You practice around that, and you gear yourself up for that. I think that’s how I’m going to have to play it from now on. It’s an unfortunate reality, but it’s my reality. And I understand it, and I accept it.”

MORE: Breaking down Tiger Woods’ career earnings from golf, other ventures

Less than a year after the horrific accident, Woods made a return to the course in December 2021. The golfer announced that he would participate in the PNC Championship, an event at which golfers team up with a member of their family in a two-day tournament.

Woods was paired with his 12-year-old son, Charlie, where the pair finished a combined 25-under-par. It was good for a second-place finish behind only John Daly and John Daly II.  

The legend of the sport continues to defy what doctors initially said after his crash. He has managed to come back and play in numerous events, though the frequency of his appearances are dwindling.

“Yeah, mobility, it’s not where I would like it but … I’m very lucky to have this leg; it’s mine,” Woods said ahead of the 2023 Masters. “Yes, it has been altered and there’s some hardware in there, but it’s still mine.”

After withdrawing from the 2023 Masters during the third round with a plantar fasciitis injury, he had surgery later that month to address post-traumatic arthritis in his right ankle that stemmed from his car accident.  

“I hurt every day,” he said ahead of the 2024 Masters. “Some days I just feel really good. Other days, not so much.”

Prime Tiger is in the past. But fans can still appreciate his greatness, especially as he toughs it out moving forward with body working against him.

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