Golf took a collective sigh of relief last night when the news came that Tiger Woods's car smash outside his Orlando home was not as bad as first thought.
Initial reports suggested the world No 1 had suffered serious injuries when his Cadillac sports crashed first into a fire hydrant and then into a neighbour's tree at 2.28am yesterday morning. But later it emerged that the extent of the damage amounted to "facial lacerations".
Nevertheless, the 33-year-old did require hospital treatment before being released. The Florida Highway Patrol issued a statement saying it was not "alcohol related", although other charges may still be brought. His agent, Mark Steinberg, told CNBC, the American network, his client was "fine" and Woods's office confirmed he was "admitted, treated and released today in good condition". But inevitably the questions will not end there.
They will go along the lines of: what was the world's highest-paid sportsman doing driving away from his home at that time of the night, particularly as he has two children under the age of three? Despite being famous for requiring minimum sleep, this is a query Woods can feel confident of hearing if and when he appears at the Chevron World Challenge next week in California.
There will obviously be some concerns he will not play in the year-ender, although it would compound the embarrassment if Woods did not turn up at Sherwood Country Club in some guise. He hosts the tournament and as a mainstay of his charitable works it holds a special place in his affections. Woods missed last year's World Challenge while recovering from surgery but was still in attendance. Of course, he will not be crowing about it, but as its promoter Woods has just given his event an A-grade billing.
The sport, however, will simply be glad to have him healthy, regardless of the rumours which have began to circulate. In his eight-month absence following the radical reconstruction of his knee in June last year, television ratings dropped and sponsors began to walk. Of course, it did not help that the globe had already entered a recession, but there is no doubting Woods's importance on the fairways.
This year he was reported to have at last become the first billionaire sportsman and, if anything, his stock is still rising. Two weeks ago Woods was paid a $3m (£1.8m) appearance fee – half of which was footed by the Victoria State government – to play in Melbourne and such was the response – both locally and globally – the organisers claimed it was "worth every dollar and more".
The next few years promise to be Woods' most high-profile as he zeroes in on Jack Nicklaus record haul of 18 majors. Woods is currently on 14 and with the 2010 major roster including some of his favourite courses – Pebble Beach for the US Open and St Andrews for The Open – there has even been talk of a Grand Slam. For the first time since 2004 he failed to win any majors this year, but still triumphed six times on the PGA Tour. Woods remains the biggest name by far in golf – if not in all of sport – and the relief was as understandable as it was unanimous within the locker rooms.
Woods is not even a member of the European Tour, but its chief executive, George O'Grady, still issued a gushing statement last night. "For the whole world of golf we wish him well and hope there's no real damage and he recovers very soon," O'Grady said. "He's a role model for the world of golf, not just the European Tour. I think everybody will de delighted the injuries are not serious. What a relief, for everyone in the world of golf."Reuse content