At times choked up by the magnitude of the White House proceedings as President Trump listed many of the milestones of his career, Tiger Woods received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Monday in a ceremony at the Rose Garden.
On a beautiful sunny spring evening, an emotional Woods reached another peak in a comeback for the ages. He is the first active athlete among the 33 from the sports world to earn the medal, the nation’s highest civilian honor.
A humbled Woods took the podium to a standing ovation after Trump delivered about 15 minutes of introductory remarks lauding Woods’ professional and philanthropic accomplishments.
“This has been an unbelievable experience,” said Woods, who was particularly moved by mentions of his family by the president.
“It’s an incredible privilege to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” Woods later tweeted. “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’ fifth victory at Augusta National at age 43 last month capped off “one of the most incredible comebacks that golf, or any sport, has ever seen,” Trump said. “Tiger, we are inspired by everything you’ve become and attained.”
Woods wore a blue suit, white shirt and red tie, sporting nearly identical attire to the president as they stood side by side. Among those in attendance were First Lady Melania Trump, vice president Mike Pence, Sen. Mitt Romney; Woods’ mother, Kultida Woods; his son, Charlie; his daughter, Sam; his girlfriend, Erica Herman; and his caddie, Joe LaCava. Trump also paid tribute to Woods’ late father, Earl. Trump pointed out LaCava by name for a quick round of applause.
He called Woods “one of the greatest athletes in all of sports … a true legend.” Trump credited Woods with introducing golf to many people around the world.
The president offered a detailed rundown of Woods’ golf biography and timeline, and detailed his medical comeback from various setbacks. During his speech, Trump offered several detailed examples of Woods’ success on the course.
“It was in 1997 at Augusta National, Bobby Jones’ temple to the sport of golf, that the game would forever change,” Trump said. “For four straight days at the Masters tournament, Tiger stunned the world with his power, grace and strategic brilliance.”
Woods would win that first green jacket by a record 12 shots, becoming the youngest Masters champion at age 21 and the first person of African-American or Asian heritage to win at Augusta National.
As the New York Times headline said the next day, “Woods tears up Augusta and tears down barriers,” Trump said. “Incredible achievement.
“We can’t wait to see what’s next Tiger,” Trump added at the end of his speech. “There are no winners like you.”
Both Trump and Woods laughed when the president recalled how Woods fell to No. 1191 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Woods is holding steady this week at No. 6.
Woods is the 33rd sports figure and fourth golfer to receive the medal. Arnold Palmer (2004), Jack Nicklaus (2005) and Charlie Sifford (2014) were honored previously.
Woods again Monday called Sifford “the grandfather I never had.” Woods said he named his son in Sifford’s honor.
Sifford, who died in 2015 at the age of 92, began playing golf in an age when much of the nation was still legally segregated. Sifford was the first African-American player to earn a PGA Tour card. After the age of 45, he won Greater Hartford Open Invitational and the Los Angeles Open.