Tiger Woods car accident timeline: How golf great made remarkable 13-month recovery for Masters return


Tiger Woods was involved in a single-car accident in early February 2021 that left him with severe injuries. At the time, nobody knew whether he would play golf ever again.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that Woods was “lucky to be alive” following the crash. Meanwhile, medical experts opined that Woods would have to endure a long and painful rehab period to have a chance to play again. And doing so on the PGA Tour was far from guaranteed.

However, Woods is on the verge of doing just that. He is planning to return to competition for the first time in more than a year and a half to participate in the 2022 Masters at Augusta National Golf Club.

Woods hasn’t played a professional-level event since undergoing back surgery in December of 2020. He will now look to win the Masters for the sixth time in his career.

That said, Woods merely participating in the event is a massive achievement. There was no guarantee that he would be able to walk again, let alone play golf professionally. Now, he’s doing it at one of the sport’s most prestigious venues.

How did Woods pull off the recovery? Here’s a look at his comeback path since the Feb. 23 crash that put his career in doubt.

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Tiger Woods recovery timeline: From car accident to Masters return

Feb. 23, 2021: On the morning of Feb. 23, Tiger Woods was involved in a single-car accident that resulted in “major damage” to the vehicle.

Woods suffered “multiple leg injuries” in the wreck that were deemed to be “moderate-to-critical.” He had to be extracted from the car using hand tools and was taken by ambulance to a hospital after the accident.

First responders said that Woods was alert at the time of their arrival. He was deemed to be in “serious” condition at the hospital but was also referred to as “stable.”

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said that Woods was “lucky to be alive” after the accident.

Feb. 24, 2021: Woods’ Twitter account releases a statement, announcing that he suffered multiple fractures to his upper and lower fibula and tibia. The injuries had to be stabilized with a rod. He also needed screws and pins inserted into his foot and ankle.

That left Woods’ future as a golfer very much in doubt, with an emergency physician saying it was “unclear” whether he would be able to golf again.

“Can he come back from this? It’s unclear at this point,” Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, told USA Today. “We don’t know. But it’s going to be a long rehab period and it’s going to be painful. We can assume that he’s going to go through bumps and twists and turns.

“It’s really unclear. But at least he has life right now.”

Feb. 25, 2021: Two days after the accident, Woods is transported to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, 18 miles from downtown Los Angeles, for “continuing orthopedic care and recovery,” per his doctors.

Feb. 26, 2021: Woods’ Twitter account announces that he has “received follow-up procedures.” They were deemed “successful.”

Feb. 28, 2021: Golfers across the sport honored Woods by wearing red-and-black during their final rounds on Sundays during several PGA Tour events of all levels. Woods was moved by the gesture and tweeted about it the following day.

Collin Morikawa spoke more in-depth about Woods after winning the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession.

“Tiger means everything to me,” Morikawa said. “And yes, he had the crash and thankfully he’s all right and hopefully he has a quick and great recovery. But I don’t think we say thank you enough. So I want to say thank you to Tiger, because sometimes you lose people too early. Kobe (Bryant), I lost my grandpa . . . about a month ago, and you don’t get to say thank you enough. So, thank you, guys.”

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March 5, 2021: Woods reveals in a statement that he did not have any memory of the crash or driving that morning, per the Associated Press.

Woods told deputies — both at the wreckage and later at the hospital — that he did not know how the crash occurred and didn’t remember driving, according to the affidavit.

Woods was first discovered by a neighborhood man who said the golfer was unconscious after the crash.

April 7, 2021: Villanueva announces that Woods was traveling 84 to 87 mph in a 45 mph zone. As such, speeding was determined to be the cause of the crash.

“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 said at a news conference.

No citations were issued to Woods — he wasn’t impaired in any way at the time of the crash — and the case was closed. That prompted him to make a statement on Twitter.

April 23, 2021: Woods posts a picture of himself on Instagram at his new golf course. It is the first post featuring him since the accident, and he is using crutches on the course.

“My course is coming along faster than I am,” Woods joked.

May 27, 2021: Woods discusses his rehab in an interview with Golf Digest. He called recovery from the injuries “painful” three months removed from the crash.

“This has been an entirely different animal,” Woods said when comparing his post-crash injuries to his previous knee and back issues. “I understand more of the rehab processes because of my past injuries, but this was more painful than anything I have ever experienced.”

Woods’ focus during rehab was regaining strength in his right leg. He was still using crutches at the time, but his goal was to eventually ditch them.

“My physical therapy has been keeping me busy,” Woods told Golf Digest. “I do my routines every day and am focused on my No. 1 goal right now: walking on my own.” 

June 15, 2021: Woods is spotted in Los Angeles. He is still walking with crutches but is able to put at least some weight on his right leg.

Sept. 24, 2021: Precious few updates were given about Woods’ status and future during the rest of the summer of 2021 as he remained away from the sport.

However, ahead of the Ryder Cup, Davis Love III spoke about Woods’ recovery. He said that Woods has “come a long way in 6-8 months” but wasn’t ready to compete in the Ryder Cup.

“It’s just unfortunate that the Ryder Cup is probably not the right place for him to try to move around right now,” Love said. “He’s going to be a part of it.”

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Oct. 9, 2021: Woods is photographed at a driving range with his son, Charlie. He is not using crutches and has a sleeve on his right leg.

Nov. 21, 2021: Woods showcases a major step forward in his recovery process. He posts a video to social media of him hitting balls for the first time since before the accident.

“Making progress,” it says in Woods’ caption.

Nov. 29, 2021: Woods reveals in an interview that he is unlikely to ever return to the PGA Tour full-time. This is due to the stage he is at in his career at 46 years old coupled with his various leg injuries.

“I think something that is realistic is playing the tour one day — never full time, ever again — but pick and choose, just like Mr. (Ben) Hogan did. Pick and choose a few events a year and you play around that,” Woods said. “You practice around that, and you gear yourself up for that. I think that’s how I’m going to have to play it from now on. It’s an unfortunate reality, but it’s my reality. And I understand it, and I accept it.”

As for where he was at in his recovery and a potential return to the tour, Woods said that he has “so far to go.”

“I’m not even at the halfway point,” Woods said. “I have so much more muscle development and nerve development that I have to do in my leg. At the same time, as you know, I’ve had five back operations. So I’m having to deal with that. So as the leg gets stronger, sometimes the back may act up. … It’s a tough road.”

Dec. 5: 2021: The PGA Tour shares a video of Woods attempting a shot with his driver from the Bahamas, continuing to build the hype around his potential return.

Dec. 8, 2021: Woods announces that he will return to the course for one event before the end of 2021. He will participate in the PNC Championship, an event at which golfers team up with a member of their family in a two-day tournament.

Woods will be paired with his 12-year-old son, Charlie.

Dec. 19, 2021: Charlie and Tiger Woods finish the PNC Championship a combined 25-under-par. That’s good for a second-place finish behind only John Daly and John Daly II. Below are a couple of the highlights from the elder Woods, who performed well in his first event back.

The golf world was generally in awe of Tiger’s performance considering that he was just 10 months removed from the catastrophic accident.

Jan. 8, 2022: John Cook, an 11-time PGA Tour winner and friend of Woods’, puts a damper on the potential of a comeback when asked whether Woods will return in 2022.

“I don’t see it in the next 12 months,” Cook told Golf Channel. “I think next time we see him will be [at the PNC Championship] next year [in 2022]. I don’t think his body will be physically ready. He can’t train the way he’s going to want to train.”

Feb. 16, 2022: Woods is asked about when he might return to the course ahead of the Genesis Invitational tournament, which he is hosting.

“I wish I could tell you when I’m playing again,” Woods told reporters, per The Athletic. “I want to know. But I don’t. My golf activity has been very limited. I can chip and putt well but I haven’t done any long stuff seriously. I’m still working on the walking part.”

What part of walking is Woods working on? He is comfortable walking on a treadmill — since it’s straight and flat — but other terrain is more difficult for him.

“Being in a cart, I can do that. But walking a golf course, that’s a totally different deal. I’ve got a long way to go,” he said. “At this age, you just don’t heal as fast, which is frustrating. … To be out here and play six rounds of golf, I’m not able to do that yet. I’m still working on getting to that point.

March 10, 2022: Woods is inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. He was seen walking without the sleeve that he wore on his right leg in his previous public appearances on the golf course.

Woods was introduced by his daughter, Sam, who praised her father’s resilience and comeback efforts in her speech. Neither she nor Tiger Woods provided an update on his future.

“Recently, Dad had to train harder than ever,” Sam Woods said. “About a year ago you were stuck in a hospital bed at one of your ultimate lows and one of the scariest moments of your life and ours. We didn’t know if you’d come home with two legs or not. Now, not only are you about to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, but you’re standing here on your own two feet.

“This is why you deserve this, because you’re a fighter. You’ve defied the odds every time, being the first Black and Asian golfer to win a major, being able to win your fifth Masters after multiple back surgeries and being able to walk just a few months after your crash.”

March 27, 2022: Woods is spotted getting a round in at Medalist in Florida. This leads to speculation that he could try to participate in the Masters on April 7.

March 29, 2022: Woods plays 18 holes at Augusta National Golf Club, presumably to test whether he will be able to participate in the 2022 Masters.

“He played every one of them,” a source told ESPN. “He looked good to me.” 

March 30, 2022: Rory McIlroy was asked about the possibility of Woods playing in the Masters. The ninth-ranked golfer in the world called his progress “unbelievable” considering that McIlroy thought the pursuit was impossible just weeks before.

“I spent some time with him a few weeks ago at his house — at that point it didn’t look possible,” McIlroy said. “He’s definitely made a lot of big strides over the last few weeks. I saw him yesterday at Augusta— he looked great. But he was still pretty— ‘I’m just seeing what’s going to happen here. I’m going to see if I can make it around 18.’”