Tiger Woods was driving more than 80 mph — nearly twice the posted speed limit — on a downhill stretch of road when he lost control of an SUV and crashed in a wreck that seriously injured the golf superstar, authorities said Wednesday.
Sheriff Alex Villanueva blamed the Feb. 23 crash outside Los Angeles solely on excessive speed and Woods’ loss of control behind the wheel. The athlete will not face any citations for his third high-profile collision in 11 years.
Woods was driving 84 to 87 mph (135 to 140 kph) in an area with a speed limit of 45 mph (72 kph), Villanueva said. No one else was hurt, and no other vehicles were involved.
The stretch of road is known for wrecks and drivers who frequently hit high speeds. Due to the steepness of the terrain, a runaway truck escape lane is available just beyond where Woods crashed.
There was no evidence that the golfer tried to brake, and investigators believe Woods may have inadvertently stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake pedal in a panic, said sheriff’s Capt. James Powers, who oversees the sheriff’s station closest to the crash site.
Woods was wearing a seat belt at the time, and the vehicle’s airbags deployed. He told deputies that he had not taken medication or consumed alcohol before the crash, sheriff’s officials said.
Detectives did not seek search warrants for Woods’ blood samples, which could have been screened for drugs or alcohol, or his cellphone. Authorities said there was no evidence of impairment or of distracted driving, so they did not have probable cause to get warrants. Investigators did search the SUV’s data recorder, known as a black box, which revealed the vehicle’s speed.
On Twitter, Woods thanked first responders, as well as the people who called 911.
Documents show that Woods told deputies he did not know how the crash occurred and did not remember driving. At the time of the wreck, Woods was recovering from a fifth back surgery, which took place two months earlier.
Woods, who is originally from the Los Angeles area, had been back home to host his PGA tournament, the Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club, when the crash happened.
He was driving an SUV loaned to him by the tournament when he struck a raised median in Rolling Hills Estates, just outside Los Angeles. The SUV crossed through two oncoming lanes and uprooted a tree, striking it at 75 mph (120 kph).
Jonathan Cherney, an accident reconstruction expert and retired Irvine, California, police detective, said the sheriff did not explain a fundamental part of the case: Why was Woods driving so fast?
The 45-year-old athlete has never gone an entire year without playing, dating back to his first PGA Tour event as a 16-year-old in high school. He had hoped to play this year in the Masters tournament, which begins Thursday.
In the days after the crash, the sheriff called it “purely an accident” and said there was no evidence of impairment.