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Tiger Woods discusses his rehab: 'More painful than anything I have ever experienced'

Ben Jared

In his first interview since his February car accident, the 15-time major champion says his primary focus is regaining strength in his injured right leg

May 27, 2021

Three months after sustaining serious leg injuries in a single-car crash outside Los Angeles, Tiger Woods finds himself in a familiar routine: rehab, rehab, rehab.

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

The rehab is focused on strengthening his right leg, which suffered traumatic injuries when he lost control of his vehicle on the morning of Feb. 23. According to a report from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Woods was speeding when he crossed over onto the wrong side of Hawthorne Avenue and eventually struck a tree off the side of the road. Authorities said there was no sign that Woods was impaired while driving and declined to press charges in connection with the accident.

Woods’ injuries included comminuted open fractures to both his tibia and fibula bones in his right leg. Those required immediate surgery at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center before he was subsequently transferred to Cedars Sinai and, finally, back to South Florida in mid-March to continue his rehab from home. Still unclear is whether additional procedures will be necessary, or if Woods can expect to regain full mobility and strength in his leg.

Asked about his hopes of playing golf again, Woods had no comment, but said, “My physical therapy has been keeping me busy. I do my routines every day and am focused on my No. 1 goal right now: walking on my own. Taking it one step at a time.”

Woods is no stranger to long-term recoveries. At the time of the crash, the 45-year-old was recovering from a microdiscectomy procedure he underwent in December. It was Woods’ fifth back operation overall and the first since his spinal-fusion surgery in April 2017.

Woods has also had five surgeries on his left knee—the one he famously tore before winning the 2008 U.S. Open—and most recently an arthroscopic procedure to clear scar tissue in August 2019.

A number of fellow PGA Tour players have visited Woods in recent months, and the general consensus is that the 15-time major winner is in good condition and spirits, all things considered. Prior to his win at the Players Championship in March, Justin Thomas described encouraging texts he received from Woods, who was watching from home.

“I’m happy and I hope he’s happy, and I always appreciate his help,” Thomas said. “If you would have told us when we were 15, 20 years old that Tiger Woods was texting us the night before we have a chance to win the tournament trying to inspire us, that’s pretty cool.”

Shortly after the Masters, Woods posted a picture to his Instagram page showing himself smiling, on crutches and in a walking boot.

“It’s funny because in that photo, the crutches definitely make my shoulders look big!” he said. “Maybe it’s the workouts, too. It’s been nice having the ability to still stay strong and work out my upper body.”

One motivating element Woods did acknowledge was the outpouring of support he’s received from around the world.

“It’s been incredible,” Woods said. “I have had so much support from people both inside and outside of golf which means so much to me and has helped tremendously.”

Woods also took note of Phil Mickelson’s historic performance at the PGA Championship, describing his longtime rival’s win as “inspirational” in a congratulatory post.

“Truly inspirational to see @PhilMickelson do it again at 50 years of age. Congrats!!!!!!!”