Tiger Woods was going nearly 90 mph — twice the posted speed limit — on a downhill stretch of road when he lost control of an SUV outside Los Angeles and crashed in an wreck that left the golf superstar seriously injured, authorities said Wednesday.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva blamed the Feb. 23 crash solely on excessive speed and Woods’ loss of control behind the wheel.
“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 told a news conference.
Woods was driving 135 to 140 kph in an area that had a speed limit of 72 kph, Villanueva said.
The stretch of road is known for wrecks and drivers who frequently hit high speeds. Due to the steepness of the roadway, a runaway truck escape lane is available just beyond where Woods crashed.
Sheriff’s Capt. James Powers, who oversees the sheriff’s station closest to the crash site, said there was no evidence that the golfer tried to brake and that it’s believed Woods inadvertently stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal. He was wearing a seat belt at the time, and the SUV’s airbags deployed.
Sheriff’s officials said Woods told deputies that he had not taken medication or consumed alcohol before the crash.
“Those questions were asked and answered,” Powers said.
Detectives did not seek search warrants for blood samples, which could have been screened for drugs or alcohol, or his cellphone. Authorities said there was no evidence of impairment or of distracted driving, so they did not have probable cause to get warrants. Investigators did search the SUV’s data recorder, known as a black box, which revealed the SUV’s speed.
No traffic citations were issued. The sheriff said Woods gave permission for authorities to reveal details about the crash.
Woods’ agent, Mark Steinberg, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Documents show that Woods told deputies he did not know how the crash occurred and did not remember driving. At the time of the wreck, Woods was recovering from a fifth back surgery, which took place two months earlier.
Woods, who is originally from the Los Angeles area, had been back home to host his PGA tournament, the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, when the crash happened.
He was driving an SUV loaned to him by the tournament when he struck a raised median in Rolling Hills Estates, just outside Los Angeles. The SUV crossed through two oncoming lanes and uprooted a tree, striking it at 120 kph.
The athlete is in Florida recovering from multiple surgeries, including a lengthy procedure for shattered tibia and fibula bones in his lower right leg in multiple locations. Those were stabilized with a rod in his tibia. Additional injuries to the bones in his foot and ankle required screws and pins.
Woods, 45, has never gone an entire year without playing, dating back to his first PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old in high school. He had hoped to play this year in the Masters tournament, which begins Thursday.
Rory McIlroy, a four-time major golf champion who lives near Woods in Florida, said he visited him on March 21.
“Spent a couple hours with him, which was nice. It was good to see him,” McIlroy said Tuesday from the Masters. “It was good to see him in decent spirits. When you hear of these things and you look at the car and you see the crash, you think he’s going to be in a hospital bed for six months. But he was actually doing better than that.”
In the weeks after the crash, the sheriff called it “purely an accident” and said there was no evidence of impairment. Villanueva faced criticism for labeling the crash an accident before the investigation had concluded.
This is the third time Woods has been involved in a vehicle investigation.
The most notorious example was when his SUV ran over a fire hydrant and hit a tree early on the morning after Thanksgiving in 2009. That crash was the start of shocking revelations that he had been cheating on his wife with multiple women. Woods lost major corporate sponsorships, went to a rehabilitation clinic in Mississippi and did not return to golf for five months.
In May 2017, Florida police found him asleep behind the wheel of a car parked awkwardly on the side of the road. He was arrested on a DUI charge and said later he had an unexpected reaction to prescription medicine for his back pain. Woods pleaded guilty to reckless driving and checked into a clinic to get help with prescription medication and a sleep disorder.
— Associated Press Golf Writer Doug Ferguson contributed from Augusta, Georgia.