The series of emotions following Tiger Woods' car crash
By Martin Rogers
FOX Sports Columnist
On Tuesday morning, Tiger Woods survived a serious car accident that could, but for a slice of fortune, have been fatal. Such news bring a lot of emotions. How do we begin to process them all?
Relief is a good starting point and perhaps the most human emotion to bring. Regardless of whether you spent all day pinned to the television coverage and devoured every fresh snippet of information, the most important thing to come from this is that a man — a father — is still alive.
Woods is the most famous golfer in the world and a figure who utterly transformed the game, but these days, that status is one of his least important jobs.
The sports world loved seeing him win the Masters on that extraordinary weekend in 2019, but fatherhood has become Woods' primary focus, with an appearance as a dad-son tandem alongside 12-year-old Charlie at the PNC Championship providing an endearing highlight at the end of 2020.
The legendary peak years that resulted in 82 PGA Tour titles and 15 Majors, all the millions and all the rest of it, that’s in the books. It's part of history, already enshrined, never to be changed. All of the "next" — his children’s teenage years, the family events and occasions, that is still to come. On Tuesday, that was almost taken away.
"It was very fortunate that Mr. Woods was able to come out of this alive," Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Carlos Gonzalez said.
"He is currently awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room," read a statement released by Woods’ team after the 45-year-old was operated on at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
Relief extends to the fact that we are talking about this — a hospital stay, albeit with severe injuries including open fractures to the bones in his right leg and a rod inserted into his tibia — and not talking about how to grieve, for the second time in 13 months, an iconic athlete lost in a terrible Los Angeles-area accident.
I’ve written this before, but it is worth repeating: No life is more important or deserving than another. Yet the way our society is structured means that certain figures have a tug on our nostalgia that can’t be ignored.
For millions, Kobe Bryant was part of the backdrop of their youth. So too, through roughly the same time period, was Tiger Woods. This story, thank goodness, is an appreciation, not an obituary.
"I have very significant benchmarks in my life that I associate with Tiger," FS1’s Nick Wright said on "First Things First." "I am so sad because I don’t want to say it is a definite, but we probably never see him golf [again]. This final chapter seems to have been cut short."
What else to feel? Concern, definitely, because how can you not? Woods’ life has been far from perfect, especially since his much-publicized personal issues came to light in 2009 and precipitated the end of his prime.
In 2017, he was arrested by Florida police for driving under the influence, with the ensuing toxicology report stating that he had five drugs in his system, mostly prescribed to help him combat post-surgical back pain.
Regarding this week’s incident in Rancho Palos Verdes, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said there was "no evidence of impairment at this point in time."
"It’s reasonable to worry about what caused the accident," Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg wrote. "We don’t know, and it’s OK to worry. We know that Woods has battled prescription-drug addiction … If he were your friend, you would worry. It is rational and not malicious. But we don’t know and sure as hell should not assume."
How much curiosity about what follows for Woods is reasonable? When we love athletes, we are fascinated by them and always want to know more. Woods emerged as a transcendent sportsman even before he broke into the professional ranks, and a smothering level of attention came with that.
It is natural to be curious, but the greatest of athletes bring out a sense of selfishness in us. We want a piece of them, we want to know about them, and most of all, we want to see them play because when they do, it is like watching superhuman poetry.
That’s what Woods was at his peak — something beautiful but also head-scratching because hitting those shots, with that level of efficiency, should have been impossible. For everyone else, it was.
As a Black athlete in what was an overwhelmingly white sport, Woods blazed an unmistakable trail, and for a long time, it seemed that his chase of Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 Majors was a formality.
Then it wasn’t, as all the ailments and surgeries piled up and the agony they caused debilitated him.
Woods’ competitive career was rapidly nearing its close even before his vehicle crashed through a median, went across two opposing lanes and rolled part way up an embankment. He hadn’t managed a top-35 finish in more than a year. In a television interview Sunday, he spoke with reservation about his prospects for coming back to competitive golf.
"I’ve got to get there first," he said when pressed on CBS about his likelihood of showing up at the Masters.
The final thing to feel toward Woods is hope. Hope that he finds a manageable recovery from the injuries incurred. Hope that the future is mobile and healthy, whether or not it involves much golf.
It’s a bit overwhelming to think about how this could have ended differently, and tragically, but when a law enforcement official says someone is lucky to be alive, it is hard not to confront the alternative outcome.
It’s difficult to know how to end this story, except to be grateful that the tale of Tiger Woods is an ongoing one.
Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. You can subscribe to the newsletter here.