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After Undergoing Surgery For Car Crash, Tiger Woods 'Awake, Responsive'

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Golf legend Tiger Woods was in a really bad single-vehicle car crash yesterday. He was sent to a Southern California trauma center to be treated for his injuries. A statement released late last night said the 45-year-old Woods was awake, responsive and recovering in his hospital room.

We've got NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman with us. Tom, thanks for being here.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Hi. How are you?

MARTIN: I'm doing OK. So initially, there had been these concerns that this could have been a fatal accident, the injuries Tiger Woods sustained. His agent yesterday said, though, he was in surgery - multiple leg injuries. What more did last night's statement reveal?

GOLDMAN: Well, it confirmed, Rachel, what the agent said and provided new details. Basically, Tiger Woods had significant injuries to his lower right leg and ankle. Details were provided by a doctor at Harbor UCLA Medical Center in LA. And they had reporters scrambling for the medical dictionary. Woods had comminuted open fractures in the tibia and fibula bones. Those are the long bones below the knee. Now, a comminuted fracture means the bones get shattered into multiple pieces. These injuries were stabilized by inserting a rod into the tibia. Woods also had screws and pins put into his foot and ankle to stabilize injuries in those areas - so some pretty severe damage. But as the statement said, he is now recovering.

MARTIN: So we know this was just his vehicle involved.

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

MARTIN: What are the other details?

GOLDMAN: Well, an investigation is underway to figure out exactly what happened. What we know is that the crash took place outside LA on a sweeping downhill curve that's known as a trouble spot. Lots of accidents happen there. The speed limit is posted at 45 mph. An LA County sheriff's deputy said they've seen people reach speeds as high as 80 in that section. We don't know how fast Woods was going, but LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Woods was traveling at a greater speed than normal.

Now, his midsize SUV went out of control, hit a median, crossed over the road, hit a curb, then a tree and rolled several times before coming to rest on its side. During the accident, the car traveled several hundred feet. There were no skid marks, meaning no extreme braking.

MARTIN: That is just crazy, Tom.

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

MARTIN: I mean, it sounds miraculous that he even survived.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Right. Well, he did. And thanks to a seatbelt and, as one sheriff's department officer said, the marvel of modern automobiles and the safety they provide.

MARTIN: Wow.

GOLDMAN: This was Sheriff Villanueva at a press conference yesterday describing the condition of Woods' car after the crash.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

ALEX VILLANUEVA: The front end was totally destroyed. The bumpers, everything was destroyed. Airbags deployed - all of that. And however, thankfully, the interior was more or less intact, which kind of gave him the cushion to survive what otherwise would have been a fatal crash.

GOLDMAN: And also, Rachel, Sheriff Villanueva said at the scene there was no evidence of impairment - no smell of alcohol or signs of drugs.

MARTIN: I don't have to tell you - this is a man who has had to stage a few different comebacks over the course of his career.

GOLDMAN: Yeah.

MARTIN: What now?

GOLDMAN: Well, obviously, we have to see how he recovers from very serious injuries. But you're right. He's had knee surgeries and back surgeries. Especially with the back, there was a period when he could barely walk. But he had that spinal fusion procedure a few years back, went on to win his 15th major tournament, the Masters in 2019. And when he had the accident yesterday, he'd been rehabbing after his fifth back surgery, trying to heal for this year's Masters in April. Safe to say that's out for now, but we'll see beyond that.

And already yesterday, you were hearing hopeful comparisons to another golfing legend, Ben Hogan. He almost died in a car crash in 1949 but came back and won golf tournaments - big ones, too.

MARTIN: All right. NPR sports correspondent Tom Goldman. Thank you.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.