‘Lucky To Be Alive’ | Global Golf Post

On Sunday afternoon, as first Tony Finau and then Max Homa were playing the 72nd hole of the Genesis Invitational, Tiger Woods sat with his legs stretched out atop the hill that overlooks the 18th green at Riviera Country Club, the Southern California sun reflecting off the wraparound shades he wore.

Dressed in black and with what appeared to be a soft drink beside him, Woods watched with a handful of others, waiting to present the champion’s trophy as part of his tournament host duties.

Woods looked content even if it was difficult not to wonder what he was thinking as he watched the game he dominated like no one before.

Less than 36 hours later, the world held its breath while Woods lay on an operating table in a Los Angeles-area hospital while pictures of his mangled vehicle filled screens seemingly everywhere.

The image was horrifying.

The possibilities were heartbreaking.

The reality is better than it could have been but it is still awful.

Woods, according to law enforcement and fire department officials, suffered “serious injuries” to both legs from his single-car accident on a suburban street. There was no sign Woods was impaired when emergency workers arrived, they said, but it’s possible speed was an issue on a downhill, curving road where accidents are not uncommon.

A tow truck recovers the vehicle driven by Tiger Woods. Photo: Frederic J.Brown, AFP via Getty Images

His car hit a median in the center of the four-lane road, crossed to the other side, hit a tree and rolled over multiple times before coming to rest on its side, several hundred feet from where the accident began. Fire department personnel used a tool for prying and an ax to pull Woods from the car.

Woods was conscious after the early-morning accident before being transported to a nearby trauma-center hospital where he underwent surgery. Mark Steinberg, his longtime manager, said Woods had suffered “multiple leg injuries.”

“I can say it was fortunate that Mr. Woods came out of this alive,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department deputy Carlos Gonzales, who first approached Woods in his car and spoke with him but, noting his injuries, waited for fire department personnel to extricate him.

For a time on Tuesday, it was hard not to think about the darkest possibility.

The world felt like it stopped. For all of our divisions, seeing the news about what happened bound us for a few disturbing hours. The power of prayer was unleashed.

Literally and figuratively, Tiger Woods only comes along once and we’ve been blessed to watch him, to stand awestruck by the shots he hit, the putts he made, the ways he won.

Woods has reshaped the game’s story and his legacy will be his achievements but he’s also a son, a father, a leader, a person whose life transcends the game he plays and, despite the enormity of his accomplishments, is just as human as the rest of us.

We knew that, of course, but an accident like the one Woods was involved in – even if we’re distantly removed from the person involved – comes with a jarring reminder of the fragility of life. One moment Woods was on his way to a second day of shooting on-course golf lessons with celebrities, the next moment he needed to be pulled through the windshield of his car to get him into an ambulance.

Two days earlier, Woods was being asked if he would be at the Masters after undergoing a fifth back surgery in late December. “God, I hope so. But I’ve gotta get there,” Woods said.

The questions changed instantly Tuesday.

He’s still Tiger. He’s aged painfully at times, enduring five back surgeries but he’s also aged gracefully. The edges are softer. He has nothing left to prove. He can appreciate what he’s accomplished.

The Masters in April isn’t a priority now. It’s whether Woods can recover from the injuries he sustained to regain his quality of life. He’s demonstrated more than once that he can invest in the unending demands of rehabilitation and he will have to again.

Think about the recent images of Woods:

The watery eyes when he cemented his comeback by winning the 2018 Tour Championship, escorted down the final hill at East Lake Country Club by thousands of fans.

The joy on his face when he won the 2019 Masters and the hugs from his family that followed, hugs that touched a place deep inside, and bound Woods to his past, his present and his future.

The happiness of playing with his son Charlie in the PNC Championship in December, maybe the sweetest side of Woods the world has seen.

That’s the Woods we’ve gotten during the past few years when he’s allowed the curtain to drop. He was never one of the guys but now he is, buddies with players almost half his age like Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler.

More than anything, Woods is a proud and joyful father, his two children the trophies of his life.

He’s still Tiger. He’s aged painfully at times, enduring five back surgeries but he’s also aged gracefully. The edges are softer. He has nothing left to prove. He can appreciate what he’s accomplished.

We had already accepted that we may never see Tiger play golf the way he once did and we were OK with that.

For a time Tuesday, we thought we might never see him again.

Two days earlier, atop the hill in Los Angeles, Woods could see for miles.

Through some measure of grace, he’s around to see Wednesday.

And beyond.

Top photo: Ross Kinnaird, Getty Images
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