The sport of Golf, winning and Tiger Woods have been synonymous with each other for over two decades. Such success and longevity at the very top of the game has resulted in Tiger becoming a household name across the world. At the end of February, Golf’s most recognisable star suffered a dangerous crash, causing the sport as a whole to collectively hold its’ breath. Early in the morning of Tuesday 23rd February, Woods’ car lost control just outside of Los Angeles, California, causing his car to flip upon leaving the road. With early reports that he was removed from the scene using the ‘Jaws of Life’ by the fire brigade, there was an outpouring of emotion for the 15-time Major Champion.
Tiger Woods’ Crash
Aged 45, Woods was removed from the incident after suffering “open fractures affecting the tibia and fibula bones” in his lower right leg which were “stabilised by inserting a rod into the tibia”. The crash took place in Los Angeles, with Woods in the area to host the Genesis Invitational PGA Tour event.
Having been in the process of recovering from an astonishing fifth back surgery that took place in January of this year, Woods was driving one of the sponsored cars from the event when the crash occurred. A deputy from the LA County Sheriff’s department, first on the scene at 7.18am, said that Woods was “lucky to be alive”.
Tiger Woods’ Career
The esteem that Eldrick Tont Woods is held in within the sporting world is a testament to the dominance he has held over a sport that remains notoriously difficult to maintain. Having won his first professional Major, The Masters, in 1997 at the tender age of 21, Woods became the youngest golfer to be ranked number 1 in the world as well as being the first person of colour to be crowned champion. All of this came just one year after turning professional.
His dominance of the sport over the next two decades was unprecedented, cementing his legacy as one of the all-time greats. Through that time, he was the number one ranked golfer in the world for 264 consecutive weeks from August 1999 to September 2004 and then again for 281 consecutive weeks from June 2005 to October 2010. In this period of domination, Woods amassed 13 Major Championship victories.
Endorsement deals with Nike and Titleist among others in his early days helped to catapult Tiger to stardom and expand his following beyond the realms of Golf alone. The former helped him to create a string of adverts that changed the perception and visibility of the sport. Throughout his career, Forbes estimates that Tiger has amassed around $1.5billion in endorsements, appearances and course design fees with those early endorsements deals of his pro career being some of the most lucrative ever seen in golf at the time.
Despite his dominance on the course, Tiger was suffering an internal battle for a considerable amount of time. Following a row with his wife in 2009, Woods was involved in a car crash which subsequently led to admissions of infidelity and the subsequent breakdown of his marriage. Throughout a troubled decade, Woods subsequently took a break from golf until the Masters the following year in April 2010. A recurrence of ongoing injuries meant that Woods’ play was riddled with shortcomings attributed to his debilitated body. In 2013, he showed signs of returning to his best, winning 5 tournaments however he then started just 24 events over the next 4 years due to chronic back pain and multiple surgeries.
At the end of those four years, Tiger found himself once again under the spotlight for reasons other than his golf as he was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2017. Despite all of this, he went on to end an 11-year drought to claim his 15th Major title when he won the Masters at Augusta National for fifth time in 2019.
Tiger has ensured his legacy extends beyond the impact of his golfing abilities. In 1996, he founded the TGR foundation, describing it by saying “TGR is my chapter two – my way of building a legacy that’s about more than birdies and bogies.” The foundation as initially set up as a single, parent brand to Tigers’ entrepreneurial and philanthropic endeavours off the course, as an opportunity to give disadvantaged youth better access to the sport of golf. Woods changed the direction of the foundation at the end of 2001 to provide educational access to under-privileged youths. Since its’ inception just over 25 years ago, the foundation has reached more than 2million children through in-person and digital programs.
Outpouring of Emotion from the PGA
The impact that Tiger Woods has had on the game of golf, other players and the sporting world as an entity was in prominent display in the immediate aftermath of his crash. An outpouring of emotive tributes from stars all over the world came flooding in as they all sent their thoughts and prayers to Tiger and his family.
Former President Barack Obama, legendary boxer Mike Tyson, Tennis superstar Serena Williams, Basketball star Stephen Curry and singer Mariah Carey were among those posting messages of support across social media following the crash that Tiger survived due to the interior of his car remaining “largely intact”.
Within the sport of golf, stars of the PGA tour united in their support of the legendary golfer by wearing red and black on the final rounds of their respective Championships. Woods became synonymous with the colours after sporting them for a number of historic and memorable winning moments throughout his career. The show of unity was described as a “touching” gesture by Woods, who finds his career now hanging in the balance following his latest injuries that occurred during his rehabilitation following a fifth back surgery.
Whether Woods is to return to professional Golf is yet to be decided however the fervent passion with which he competes would leave few to bet against one final comeback.