Woods suffered serious leg, ankle and foot injuries in the accident in the early hours of Tuesday morning as his vehicle rolled over “several times” after seeming to clip the central reservation in the suburbs of the Californian city.
He had to be cut from the wreckage and was said to be “fortunate to be alive” by the first police officer to arrive at the scene. “I don't think he was aware of how gravely he was injured,” said Deputy Carlos Gonzalez in an interview on NBC News in the US on Wednesday.
McIlroy, a close friend of Woods and the newly-elected chairman of the PGA Tour’s Player Advisory Council, gave his reaction to the crash and the injuries suffered by the 45-year-old as he prepared for this week’s WGC-Workday Championship in Florida.
“He's not Superman,” replied the Northern Irishman to being asked if he felt Woods, having already overcome career-threatening back trouble to win a fifth Masters and 15th major title in 2019, was the one person in the game who could recover from such a bad accident.
“He's a human being at the end of the day. And he's already been through so much. At this stage, I think everyone should just be grateful that he's here, that he's alive, that his kids haven't lost their dad.
“That's the most important thing. Golf is so far from the equation right now, it's not even on the map at this point.”
While he acknowledged that Woods had suffered “some pretty bad injuries”, McIlroy almost took umbrage at being asked if the incident would lead the likes of him and other players to be distracted in this week’s $10.5 million event at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton.
“I was looking at some of the coverage yesterday and they were talking as if he was gone. He was in a car crash,” added the four-time major winner.
“It was really bad, but that's the extent of it. So no. Of course we're all going to play a golf tournament and seem no different.
“It's obviously going to take a bunch of attention away from this golf tournament, but that's nothing to do with us, that doesn't fall on us, and we don't really feel that when we're playing anyway.”
Asked if there had been any talk among the players about “paying tribute to Tiger”, McIlroy went on: “He's not gone.”
The chances of Woods playing again in 2021 seem slim, especially as his latest injuries have come on the top of ongoing back problems, having undergone a fifth procedure on that in December.
“It's inevitable that one day he won't be a part of it,” said McIlroy of Woods’ PGA Tour career having been cast in doubt, “and that's going to be just something that the game of golf and the Tour is going to have to deal with and adapt to.
“Obviously, hopefully he comes back and is able to play, but, if he's not, there's still a lot of other ways that he can affect the game in a great way.”