Tiger Woods’ car crash casts long shadow
Published on: Friday, February 26, 2021
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MIAMI: Rory McIlroy says he expects an elite field to be dialled in for the World Golf Championships Workday Championship despite the shadow cast by the serious car accident involving Tiger Woods on Tuesday.

Woods suffered serious leg injuries that required lengthy surgery in the single-car, rollover crash in California.

The 15-time major champion, still recovering from a fifth back surgery in December, wasn’t in the field for this week’s event at Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Florida, but news that he’d been gravely injured sent shockwaves through the sport.

“It’s obviously going to take a bunch of attention away from this golf tournament, but that’s nothing to do with us, that doesn’t fall on us, and we don’t really feel that when we’re playing anyway,” McIlroy said.

World number four Xander Schauffele said that Woods himself provided the ideal role model for “compartementalising”—having been able to maintain his focus and keep winning through numerous injuries and upheaval in his personal life.

“I think he was the best at it,” Schauffele said. “We all kind of learned from him. He played some of the best golf with so much crazy stuff going on in his life, injuries and all kinds of crazy stuff.

“He is the reason a lot of us are playing golf and the reason a lot of us do what we do,” Schauffele said. “I can tell you it’s very quiet on site for the most part.”

World number one Dustin Johnson, second-ranked Jon Rahm and No. 3 Justin Thomas are all in the field for the first WGC event of the 2020-21 PGA Tour season, following the cancellation of the WGC-HSBC Champions in October.

Because of logistical issues created by the Covid-19 pandemic, the event was moved from Mexico—where Patrick Reed lifted the trophy last year.

“It’s different than Mexico, that’s for sure,” McIlroy said. 

“It’s a big golf course, undulating greens ... they can tuck some pins away here and put them in some difficult spots.

“It’s a bit of an unknown. No one’s been here before. But it’s certainly a great venue.”

Spain’s Rahm, who was tied for third behind Reed last year in Mexico, also has experience playing Concession as a collegiate golfer in the United States.

“It’s a challenging golf course tee to green, difficult,” Rahm said. “It’s going to test every part of our game. Everything needs to be on.” 

Meanwhile, McIlroy said Wednesday that questions over Woods’ golfing future are immaterial as the superstar fights to recover from serious leg injuries sustained in a car crash.

“At this stage I think everyone should just be grateful that he’s here, that he’s alive, that his kids haven’t lost their dad,” said McIlroy. 

“That’s the most important thing. Golf is so far from the equation right now, it’s not even on the map at this point.”

McIlroy echoed the thoughts of US PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, who said his energies would be devoted to supporting Woods in whatever way possible.

“Well, I think that the only thing that really matters now is his well-being,” Monahan said. “His recovery, his family, the level of support that we provide to him. 

“Listen, when Tiger wants to talk about golf, we’ll talk about golf,” added Monahan, after he was asked if it was “too soon” to think about the PGA Tour without Woods, whose 82 PGA Tour titles include 15 major championships.

“When you’re going to overcome what he needs to overcome, I think the love of all of our players and everybody out here, it’s going to come forward in a big way and across the entire sporting world,” he said. 

Woods was recovering in hospital in Los Angeles on Wednesday after surgery for “significant orthopedic injuries” to his lower right leg and ankle.

This included the insertion of a rod into his shin bone and the use of screws and pins to stabilise his foot and ankle, doctors said.

Law enforcement officials who responded to the crash in a Los Angeles suburb said Woods was lucky to survive when his SUV left the steep, curving road, rolling over several times.

Monahan recalled his shock at being notified by telephone of the crash and the period of uncertainty as to whether Woods’ injuries were life-threatening.

“You’re thinking a lot of different things and some of them are pretty scary to think about,” Monahan said.

Schauffele described the “sombre” mood on the practice green on Tuesday and said it was still unusually “quiet” on the course on Wednesday.

“There’s so much speculation right now, and I hate speculating, but I would really hate to see that if he wouldn’t be able to play golf again,” Schauffele said.

But even if that’s the case, Rahm noted that Woods’ legacy is secure.

“I don’t necessarily need to see him on a golf course again,” Rahm said. “I would love to, but I just hope he can live a normal life from here on.

“He’s given everything to this game, he’s done so much for us, and every day that we’re all out here is going to be a memory of Tiger Woods.

“Luckily he’s got so much impact in this world that even if he doesn’t hit a golf shot, with his foundation and many other works, he’s still able to make a great impact in this world.” 


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