Speeding, failure to handle curve caused Tiger Woods’ crash in Rolling Hills Estates

Tiger Woods was barreling along at nearly twice the 45-mph speed limit when the SUV he was driving hit a median, crossed over into the opposite lane, smashed into a tree and rolled over in Rolling Hills Estates earlier this year, leaving him with a broken leg, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials said on Wednesday, April 7.

At a press conference in downtown L.A., Sheriff Alex Villanueva said data from a recorder in the vehicle, the so-called black box, shows the famed professional golfer was still traveling 75 mph when he hit the tree. The speed, and Wood’s failure to handle a curve, led to the crash, the sheriff said.

The powerful collision, at a bend on Hawthorne Boulevard near Blackhorse Road on the Palos Verdes Peninsula at around 7:15 a.m. Feb. 23, launched the the car into the air.

The SUV went spinning until coming to a rest several hundred feet away, sheriff’s Capt. James Powers said.

“The impact of the vehicle when it hit the tree caused the vehicle to go airborne, and do a somewhat pirouette, landing on its side,” Powers said.

The data recorder indicates Woods never hit his brakes as he drifted toward the median, but detectives believe he “inadvertently hit the accelerator” as he tried to brake, the sheriff’s captain said. Woods was cooperative with investigators but told them he doesn’t recall the collision, sheriff’s officials said.

A seat-belted Woods was trapped inside until firefighters and paramedics pulled him out through the windshield.

Hawthorne Boulevard’s downward stretch is known for bad accidents. Neighbors have described the sloping, curvy stretch of roadway as notorious for crashes, especially among those not from the area. It is not uncommon for drivers to travel in excess of 80 mph there.

Woods was the only person in the vehicle. Villanueva said he was not cited for an infraction, nor was he charged with a crime.

The sheriff repeated on Wednesday that there was no sign the 45-year-old Woods was impaired. After he was rescued from the vehicle, Woods had help sitting up from deputies. Despite suffering significant injuries, he was alert, Powers said.

Woods has famously been involved in at least two other incidents on the road involving apparent impairment, both times in Florida: In 2009 he was found unconscious in his car after a crash and later admitted to taking Ambien; eight years later he was arrested and pleaded guilty to reckless driving after a toxicology report found multiple prescription drugs in his system.

In the Rolling Hills Estates crash, no law enforcement officer witnessed what happened, so Woods could not be cited for speeding, the sheriff said. And without probable cause that Woods was impaired or distracted, the sheriff said, investigators could not seek a blood-alcohol test or try to obtain a search warrant for calls made or received on his cell phone.

“Past history does not get you the elements you need for probable cause,” said Villaneuva, adding Woods was treated the same as anyone else would have been. “I’ll leave it at that.”

Woods, who now lives in Florida, was in Los Angeles County for a two-day video shoot with Golf Digest and GOLFTV at Rolling Hills Country Club. He was giving on-course lessons to celebrities. The golfer was headed from the Terranea Resort, in Rancho Palos Verdes, to Rolling Hills Country Club.

In the crash, Woods’ SUV, a courtesy vehicle, plowed into a sign reading, “Welcome to Rolling Hills Estates.” Villanueva has said the interior of the vehicle was “more or less intact” but the front end destroyed. The air bags deployed.

Woods, a professional since 1996, has 82 PGA Tour wins, including 15 major championships. But back problems and other injuries have slowed down the Cypress native’s career.

Woods’ TRG Foundation, formerly the Tiger Woods Foundation, began in 2006 as a learning center in Anaheim and has since expanded to a global reach, with STEM courses and other educational programs for children.

In a statement on Wednesday, Woods acknowledged the sheriff’s investigation without addressing the cause of the collision. He thanked deputies and firefighters who responded to the crash by name.

“I will continue to focus on my recovery and family, and thank everyone for the overwhelming support and encouragement I’ve received throughout this very difficult time,” he said.

Woods suffered injuries to his lower right leg and ankle, requiring at least one lengthy surgery. It is unclear when, or if, he will return to the PGA Tour.

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