President Donald Trump awarded Masters champion and golfing buddy Tiger Woods the Medal of Freedom on Monday evening in a Rose Garden ceremony the athlete’s new girlfriend also attended.
The president said that Woods, 43, is ‘one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports’ and has inspired people worldwide with his barrier-breaking victories, capped by a comeback at this year’s tournament.
‘He’s also a great person. He’s a great guy,’ Trump declared. ‘He inspired millions of young Americans with his thrilling wire-to-wire victories. Tiger Woods is a global symbol of american excellence, devotion, and drive.’
The first African-American to win the Masters and the youngest golfer to take the title, Woods won his first major tournament in 11 years in April after suffering severe injuries that threatened to end his career forever.
Woods cried at the White House as he talked about his late father and spoke about his ‘amazing’ comeback this year and the’unbelievable experience’ of winning the award in front his mother, children, caddy, girlfriend Erica Herman, the president and first lady Melania Trump.
‘You’ve seen the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, and I would not be in this position without all your help,’ he told his family. ‘I’ve battled, I try to hang in there, and I’ve tried to come back and play the great game of golf again.’
The citation for the award said that Woods was being honored for the 5 Masters tournament’s he’s won, beginning in 1997 when he became the first black man and the youngest golfer ever to clinch the title. He won again in 2019, becoming the second-oldest champ.
President Trump also noted that Woods has 81 PGA tour victories under his belt – one victory behind the all-time record.
Trump also had another statistic he wanted to point out: he said that Woods’ victory in April was ‘record-setting ratings’ for a Masters tournament.
‘We are in the presence of a true legend, an extraordinary athlete who has transformed golf and achieved new levels of dominance,’ he said.
He hailed Woods, whom he’s relied on to boost his own popularity throughout his own career, as an entrepreneur and and philanthropist, as well as an athlete.
‘That’s how I originally met Tiger,’ the former real estate mogul acknowledged in the Rose Garden on Monday evening.
After Woods’ first Masters victory in ’97, he celebrated at Trump’s Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City. The men have been business partners since 2014, when they opened the Tiger Woods Villa at the future president’s golf club in Doral, Florida.
Prior to the deal, the golfer took a break from the sport after tearing his ACL in 2008, admitting to infidelity in 2009 and divorcing his wife and mother of his children, Swedish model Elin Nordegren, the following year, in 2010.
He was arrested for drunk driving in 2017, when Florida law enforcement officers found five types of drugs in his system. He said he’d over medicated in response to back pain that caused him to quit competing two years earlier.
Woods was back on the course a month later in New Jersey, playing the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club, where he ran into his old friend who’d become president, Donald Trump.
Trump hinted at the controversies at Monday’s ceremony, as he recalled Woods’ unexpected victory in the 2008 U.S. Open, despite having two leg fractures and a torn ACL.
‘He’s got a great memory, this guy. And he remembers the good stuff. Not the bad. We don’t want to – we just, what you did there was amazing,’ the president said, recounting the blow-by-blow of the victory.
The president said that Woods ‘fought through the terrible pain, and he fought all the way back to the summit of golf’ to win the PGA championship a decade later.
Last month, Woods shocked the world with ‘one of the most incredible comebacks that golf or any sport as ever seen,’ winning the Masters, Trump recalled on Monday.
‘Tiger was back on top and won his first major in 11 years, and that was some major, with record-setting television,’ he said.
Trump said he’d present the golfer with the Medal of Freedom at a White House ceremony shortly after the surprise victory.
Trump said Monday that Woods is known for ‘pushing boundaries, defying limits and always striving for greatness’ in a way that embodies the American spirit.
‘Tiger, we are inspired by everything you have become and attained, the job you have done is incredible: your spectacular achievements on the golf course, your triumph over physical adversity, and your relentless will to win, win, win,’ he said.
He said Woods is someone ‘whose tenacity, willpower and unrelenting drive’ is an inspiration to everyone.
‘Congratulations again on your amazing comeback and your amazing life,’ he told his friend. ‘And for giving sports fans everywhere a lifetime of memories. We can’t wait to see what’s next Tiger. It’s going to be good. We know that, it’s going to be good, because there are no winners like you.’
Woods noted that Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Charlie Sifford had received the award before him. President George W. Bush honored the first two golfers and President Barack Obama gave the Medal of Freedom to the latter.
Sifford was a mentor to Woods, who said in his speech that he thought of the late golfer as a grandfather. He named his son Charlie after the legendary athlete.
‘So to have been chosen as the next golfer, after Charlie, is truly remarkable. So thank you, again, and thank you Mr. President,’ he told Trump, before shaking his hand and posing for photos with the first couple and his family, including his girlfriend,Herman.
Woods took to Instagram after the ceremony and wrote: ‘It’s an incredible privilege to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Considering the recipients, history, and what this means to me and my family, it’s also very humbling. Thank you all for your support and I hope this inspires others to never give up on their dreams.’
Woods is a frequent golf partner of Trump’s. So is Nicklaus. Both professionals play with the billionaire at his Florida properties.
The next professional tournament that Woods will play the Zozo Championship in Japan. Held at Accordia Golf Chiba Narashino Country Club, the tournament takes place roughly 50 miles outside of Tokyo. It’s at the end of October.
He’s also playing the Presidents Cup at the Royal Melbourne in Australia from Dec. 12-15, a tournament he’s captaining on behalf of the United States.
Trump and past American presidents has been invited to attend the golf tournament.
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Francesca Chambers