"I'm unbelievably sad, and it's one of the more tragic days," said Tiger Woods minutes after hearing of Kobe Bryant's death on Sunday

By Benjamin VanHoose
January 27, 2020 10:57 AM

Tiger Woods received the shocking news of his friend Kobe Bryant‘s death after finishing 18 holes of golf.

At the Farmers Insurance Open at the Torrey Pines golf course in San Diego on Sunday, news of the 41-year-old basketball star’s tragic death was broken to Woods, 44, after he completed his round of the tournament.

The decision to hold off on telling Woods until afterward was made by his caddie, Joe LaCava, who felt it was “better off” to delay the emotional news.

“I didn’t think he’d be to the point where he couldn’t play golf, but I figured I’d wait to the end,” LaCava told the New York Post. “It was too much of distraction. I waited until we got into the tunnel on 18 to tell him because I didn’t want the cameras on him and see the shock on his face.”

Bryant, 41, and his 13-year-old daughter Gianna died in a helicopter crash on Sunday morning that also killed seven other people. Bryant is survived by his wife Vanessa, 37, and their other daughters Natalia, 17, Bianka, 3, and Capri, 7 months.

Reporters caught the moment Woods was informed of the tragedy on camera, with the golf pro initially reacting with a disbelieving “excuse me?

RELATED: Michael Jordan Mourns the Death of ‘Little Brother’ Kobe Bryant: ‘Words Can’t Describe the Pain’

Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant
Ben Jared/PGA TOUR/Getty; Kevin Winter/Getty

Speaking with reporters after his round, Woods grappled with the news, explaining that he didn’t understand at the time why spectators were shouting “Do it for Mamba” on the back nine, referring to Bryant’s fan nickname.

“I didn’t understand why people in the gallery were saying, ‘Do it for Mamba.’ Now I understand,” Woods told CBS Sports. “It’s a shocker to everyone. I’m unbelievably sad, and it’s one of the more tragic days. The reality is setting in because I was just told about five minutes ago.”

Woods added: “Life is very fragile, as we all know. You can be gone at any given time and we have to appreciate the moments that we have. I just can’t imagine what his family’s going through right now.”

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE’s free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories

Tiger Woods and Kobe Bryant in 1997
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty

RELATED: Will Smith, Kim Kardashian, Dwayne Johnson and More Mourn Kobe Bryant and Daughter Gianna’s Deaths

Woods shared his admiration of the late Los Angeles Lakers standout, shouting out Bryant’s competitive nature and unmatched talents.

“[I’ll remember] the fire. He burned so competitively hot,” he said, according to CBS Sports. “The desire to win. He brought it each and every night on both ends of the floor. Not too many guys can say that throughout NBA history.”

A number of other prominent sports figures have also shared their reactions to Bryant’s death, as well as posted tributes to the athlete, including Derek Jeter and Michael Jordan.

One of Bryant’s former teammates, Shaquille O’Neal, mourned the loss of his longtime friend, sharing a series of photos of the two playing together over their careers.

“There’s no words to express the pain I’m going through now with this tragic and sad moment of losing my friend, my brother, my partner in winning championships, my dude and my homie,” O’Neal, 47, wrote on Instagram. “I love you brother and you will be missed. My condolences goes out to the Bryant family and the families of the other passengers on board. IM SICK RIGHT NOW !”

Advertisement