Tiger Woods was driving at least twice the speed limit — 84 mph in a 45 mph zone — when he crashed in Southern California in February, but there were no signs he was impaired and he will not face charges, authorities said Wednesday.
Woods’ Genesis GV80 SUV was traveling 84 mph to 87 mph on Feb. 23 when it crashed in Rolling Hills Estates, a scenic, wealthy suburban region of southern Los Angeles County, Sheriff Alex Villanueva told reporters.
The primary cause of the accident, Villanueva said, was “driving at a speed unsafe for the road conditions and the inability to negotiate the curve of the roadway.”
Woods, 45, was still going 75 mph when he hit the tree, sending his SUV into the air, officials said.
“The impact of the vehicle when it hit the tree caused the vehicle to go airborne and do somewhat (of a) pirouette landing on its side,” sheriff’s Capt. James Powers said.
Officials say they found no signs of impairment, and no charges will be filed in the one-car crash.
The sheriff’s department did not forward a case for possible prosecution to L.A. County prosecutors, and Villanueva came under some criticism for so quickly labeling the crash “purely an accident.”
Investigators have also come under scrutiny for failing to get a search warrant for Woods’ blood samples, which could have detected any evidence of drugs or alcohol and possible impairment.
Woods checked himself into a clinic in 2017 for help in dealing with prescription medication use after he was charged with DUI in Florida.
Villanueva insisted his deputies would have been laughed out of court if they sought a search warrant without more evidence.
“To get probable cause you need to have building blocks of elements to indicate that someone potentially committed a crime, and that’s higher than just a reasonable suspicion,” he said.
“You cannot approach a judge for a search warrant just because, ‘Well, we knew they had trouble in the past or something, therefore can you sign this?’ And the judge is going to say, ‘Get out of here.’”
L.A. County Sheriff’s detectives did get a search warrant for the data recorder, or black box, for Woods’ totaled SUV.
And that data showed Woods never hit the brakes before crashing, officials said. That fact, combined with Woods’ apparent lack of memory of how he crashed, led investigators to believe he meant to pump brakes but inadvertently gunned the accelerator.
“When you panic or you have some sort of a sudden interruption while you’re driving, your initial thought is to hit the brake,” Powers said. “And it’s believed that he may have done that, but hit the accelerator and didn’t hit the brake.”
Woods was not charged with a crime or even cited with a vehicle code citation, Villanueva said, because no one else was injured and there were no witnesses to the driver’s speeding.
“A lot of courts will dismiss it because it wasn’t observed by a peace officer,” Powers said.
Ordinarily, details of a car crash would be sealed and only available to the parties involved, officials said. But Woods agreed to allow findings to be made public, the sheriff said.
Woods thanked the deputies, firefighters, paramedics and good Samaritans who helped him on Feb. 23.
“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,” Woods said in a statement on Wednesday.
The golfer is resting at home in Florida, recovering from his serious leg injuries and multiple surgeries.
February’s wreck was the second most well-known car accident in Woods’ driving career. He crashed outside his Florida home on Thanksgiving night 2009, in an accident that inadvertently shed light on his extramarital affairs and ended his marriage to Elin Nordegren.
Woods has won 82 tournaments, tied for the most in a career with Sam Snead, in one of golf’s greatest careers.
But February’s crash raised more doubts about Woods’ future and his chances of breaking one of golf’s most hallowed records: the 18 major tournament championships won by Jack Nicklaus.
When a 32-year-old Woods captured the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, his 14th major title, Nicklaus’ mark seemed to be well within reach.
But Woods has been slowed by age and injuries, leading to just one more major, his much-celebrated victory at the 2019 Masters.
The first round of this year’s Masters, without Woods, tees off Thursday at Augusta National in Georgia.
David K. Li
David K. Li is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.