Tiger Woods: A Timeline of the Many Adversities He Overcame in His Life
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You can't keep a good golfer down. Tiger Woods has had a lot of setbacks in his life, but the sports legend has managed to persevere.
On Tuesday, Tiger was involved in a serious, single-vehicle rollover car accident in Los Angeles, which left him with multiple leg injuries. The vehicle sustained serious damage, and Tiger was transported by ambulance to the hospital where he underwent a long surgical procedure on his lower right leg and ankle.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said on Wednesday that the incident was "purely an accident," and that they "do not contemplate any charges whatsoever" in regards to the crash. He shared that there have been 13 accidents since last January on the same stretch of road where Woods crashed.
The accident comes just over a month after Tiger underwent serious back surgery to correct a displaced disc that was putting pressure on a nerve in his spine. At the time of his car crash, Tiger was still recovering from this procedure.
This frightening accident is the latest in a long series of challenges and adversities the golf pro has faced during his life, which include painful personal losses and his own struggles with vices and addictions. Here's a look back at the obstacles the legendary golfer has overcome over the past 45 years.
The Death of His Father
Tiger's father, Earl Woods, began teaching his son how to golf before he turned two. Within a few years, Tiger was considered to be a child prodigy, and Earl continued to teach, coach, manage and encourage his wildly talented son for years. Even after retiring as Tiger's coach, he continued to support his son and travel with him to tournaments across the world.
In 1996, Earl was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which is when he really started to take a step back from actively participating in his son's career, but never stopped coming out as often as possible to support him. Earl ended up writing two books on his experience training his son, as well as his theories on parenting and raising a talented athlete with ambition.
On May 3, 2006, Earl died of a heart attack at his home in Cypress, California, at the age of 74. A few months after Earl's death, Tiger missed the cut for the 2006 US Open -- marking the first time he'd ever missed the cut after 38 majors as a professional golfer. Tiger later admitted his poor performance was due to his painful loss.
"When I didn't win the Masters that year, that was really tough to take because that was the last event my dad was ever going to watch me play," Tiger said in 2020. "He passed not too long after that and, quite frankly, when I got ready for this event, I didn't really put in the time. I didn't really put in the practice, and consequently missed the cut pretty easily... think it was just...I was not prepared to play and still dealing with the death of my dad."
His Cheating Scandal and Marital Issues
In November 2009, while Tiger was married to Swedish-born model Elin Nordegren, the National Enquirer published a story claiming Tiger was having an affair with nightclub hostess Rachel Uchitel -- who denied the report.
Two days later, Tiger was involved in his first headline-grabbing car accident when he crashed his black Cadillac Escalade into a fire hydrant and a row of his neighbor's hedges near his home in Florida at 2:30 a.m. Paramedics found Tiger lying in the street, with Elin having allegedly used a golf club to break out the back windows of the car to rescue her husband from the crash. The crash drew even more attention to the alleged affair and speculation regarding the couple's marital troubles.
The next month, Us Weekly ran a story claiming Tiger had been having an affair with a cocktail waitress named Jaimee Grubbs, who allegedly had hundreds of text messages and a voice mail detailing their relationship. Hours later, Tiger released a statement admitting to "transgressions" in his marriage.
"I have let my family down and I regret those transgressions with all of my heart. I have not been true to my values and the behaviour my family deserves," Tiger's statement read in part. "I am not without faults and I am far short of perfect. I am dealing with my behaviour and personal failings behind closed doors with my family. Those feelings should be shared by us alone."
Several days later, Tiger announced that "after much soul searching," he decided to take "an indefinite break from professional golf." Soon, Tiger began to loose many of his long-held corporate sponsors, and in August 2010, he and Elin -- who share two children together -- divorced nearly six years after tying the knot.
In the years following Tiger's high-profile infidelity scandal and temporary self-imposed exile from the sport, the star athlete truly started to struggle with his performance on the course. Tiger opened the 2011 season with the Farmers Insurance Open, and ended up in 44th place, marking his worst season opening of his career.
In February 2011, Tiger's world ranking had dropped to No. 5. By November, his ranking had dropped to a career low of No. 58. The legendary golfer had a winless streak that stretched out over 100 weeks, and it was clear his game and his psyche had been shaken by his public falling out over his personal scandals.
In 2012, things started looking up. Tiger seemed to buckle down and regain his focus, and he began winning once again. In 2013, Woods won the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the eighth time and officially reclaimed his position as the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world. At the conclusion of the 2013 season, Tiger was named PGA Player of the Year and PGA Tour Player of the Year -- his 11th time earning the titles.
Arrest for DUI
On May 29, 2017, Tiger was arrested in the early hours of the morning near his home in Jupiter Island, Florida, by officers with the Jupiter Police Department. According to the arrest report, he was "asleep at the wheel and had to be woken up," while the car was still running with its break lights and right turn signal on.
While the golf pro blew a .000 on the breathalyzer, a toxicology test later obtained by ET showed that he had Vicodin, Dilaudid, Xanax, Ambien and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) -- the active ingredient in marijuana -- in his system.
Tiger released a statement after his toxicology report became public, saying, "As I previously said, I received professional help to manage my medications. Recently, I had been trying on my own to treat my back pain and a sleep disorder, including insomnia, but I realize now it was a mistake to do this without medical assistance."
"I am continuing to work with my doctors, and they feel I've made significant progress. I remain grateful for the amazing support that I continue to receive and for the family and friends that are assisting me," Tiger's statement continued.
In October 2017, the athlete pleaded guilty to reckless driving in a Palm Beach County court. He was found guilty, and sentenced to one year of probation -- during which time he was forbidden from drinking -- as well as a $250 fine and 50 hours of community service.
Multiple Back Surgeries
Tiger's entire life as a professional golfer has been a series of setbacks and comebacks, largely due to his health. Over the course of his career, Woods has had to undergo five back surgeries and five knee surgeries, not to mention treatment for an elbow injury and numerous other physical ailments. Among the back treatments, Tiger has had to enduring multiple microdiscectomies as well as a spinal fusion in April 2017 -- one month before his arrest.
A year before that, Tiger was unexpectedly vocal when he publicly contemplated the possibility that his golf career might be coming to a close. In 2016, a reporter asked Tiger what he did to exercise, and he admitted that he mostly just walks. When asked if there's more to his health regimen, he said, "I walk and I walk some more."
Tiger then asked himself, "Where is the light at the end of the tunnel?" And surprised reporters when he shared, "I don't know. I think pretty much everything beyond this will be gravy."
That was in 2016 -- then, in April 2019, Tiger won the Masters, which was his first major championship victory in over a decade, and it made him the second-oldest golfer to ever win the Masters. Later in the year, Tiger joined the 2020 PGA Tour and earned his 82nd Tour win, tying the all-time record for most victories on the PGA Tour.
Car Crash and Leg Injury
On Feb. 23, 2021, while still recovering from his most recent back surgery, Tiger was involved in a single-vehicle crash, which took place on the border of Rolling Hills Estates and Rancho Palos Verdes in California. The 45-year-old athlete had to be pulled from his vehicle by firefighters and paramedics and was transported by ambulance to a hospital for injuries. Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said that Tiger had suffered multiple leg injuries and was in surgery.
ET later learned through LASD Lt. Michael White that Tiger suffered "non-life-threatening injuries" and was believed to be "conscious when officers got to him." During the live press conference hours after the accident, officials told reporters that there was "no evidence of impairment" when the incident took place, and that the incident was still subject to investigation.
"He was lucid, no odor of alcohol, no evidence of any medication, narcotics, or anything like that, that would bring that into question," Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters on Wednesday. "This is what it is, an accident."
They also shared that the vehicle was totaled after it traveled several 100 feet from the center divider, hit a tree and rolled over several times. Officials suspect speed was a factor in his accident.
His team updated fans on his condition on Tuesday night, revealing that he underwent a long surgical procedure on his lower right leg and ankle.
"Mr. Woods suffered significant orthopaedic injuries to his right lower extremity that were treated during emergency surgery by Orthopaedic trauma specialists at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, a level 1 trauma center," Anish Mahajan, MD, Chief Medical Officer & Interim CEO at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, said in a statement.
Tiger was in Los Angeles for the PGA Tour's Genesis Invitational, which his foundation -- the TGR Foundation -- runs. He was also filming a series with Discovery and GOLFTV, in which he gives on course instruction to celebrities including Jada Pinkett Smith, David Spade and Dwyane Wade.
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