In recent years, Tiger Woods has gained an elder statesman aura about him on the PGA Tour. Players who were once intimidated by him are now gravitated to him.
That was on display in April 2019 when Woods won his first major tournament in more than a decade, taking home that year’s Masters. When Woods walked off the course, former champions and Woods’ rivals met him as he left the course to congratulate him.
So when news spread of Woods’ car crash that left him with serious leg injuries on Tuesday, it was clear the golf world was rooting for the 45-year-old star who has won 15 majors.
Justin Thomas, who has become one of Woods’ closest friends on the PGA Tour, was preparing for the World Golf Championship Workday Championship on Tuesday when he learned the news.
“Yeah, I'm sick to my stomach,” Thomas said. “You know, it hurts to see one of your -- now one of my closest friends get in an accident. Man, I just hope he's all right. Just worry for his kids, you know. I'm sure they're struggling.”
Tony Finau was just 7 years old when he watched Woods win his first major in 1997. Finau then went toe-to-toe with Woods, and was in Woods’ group when he won the 2019 Masters.
“He means a lot to the game of golf,” Finau said. “I can only speak from my experience, he means a lot to my career. I've said it I think time after time, the '97 Masters changed the course of my life, course of my career. Without that event I probably wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be playing golf, so he definitely changed the course of my life, my career. I think I'm one of hundreds of guys out here probably that would say the same thing. He means a lot to the game, but individually I think he means a lot to us just individually, especially for me.”
Bryson DeChambeau, who just won his first major in 2020, echoed Finau’s sentiments.
“He's what inspired me, so he means everything. I texted him and texted Rob (McNamara, Woods’ coach) as well. I said, look, man, anything I can do to help there. And, you know, he's going to be fine, he's going to do fine,” DeChambeau said. “I know he is, he's a strong individual. And Rob knows that, everybody knows that and it is what it is.”
Despite authorities saying the injuries Woods sustained were “serious,” DeChambeau said he expects Woods will do what it takes to return to the PGA Tour.
“I have no doubt in my mind he'll be back,” DeChambeau said. “Take him a little longer, I'm sure, but from my perspective he's one of the most impressive human beings I've ever met and I think that he'll come back just fine.”