Trump Awards ‘Legend’ Tiger Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom

May 7, 2019 Updated: May 7, 2019

The president commended one of the world’s greatest golfers as an “extraordinary athlete” and a “true legend” before presenting the nation’s highest civilian award to him on May 6.

Donald Trump hung the Presidential Medal of Freedom around Tiger Woods’s neck at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, which was attended by Vice President Mike Pence, members of the Cabinet, governors, and representatives from both the House and Senate.

“We are in the presence of a true legend, an extraordinary athlete who has transformed golf and achieved new levels of dominance, and is also a great person, is a great guy,” the president said in a video posted to Twitter on May 6.

Trump described Woods’s inspiring recovery from chronic back pain when he could “barely swing a club” to winning his first major championship in 11 years at the Augusta National on April 14 as an “incredible” example of “American excellence, devotion, and drive.”

“Tiger fought through the pain and he fought all the way back to the summit of golf. Last year, we saw a sign of what was to come when he won the Tour championship, people forget that. He won the Tour championship last year,” he said. “Your spectacular achievements on the golf course, your triumph over physical adversity, and your relentless will to win, win, win. These qualities embody the American spirit of pushing boundaries, defying limits and always striving for greatness.”

Trump congratulated Woods on his “amazing” comeback and for giving sports fans around the world a “lifetime of memories.”

“We can’t wait to see what’s next, Tiger. It’s going to be good, we know that,” he said. “It’s going to be good because there are no winners like you.”

An unnamed military aide at the ceremony said that Woods, 43, was the youngest golfer to win the 1997 Masters back when he was 21-years-old and the tournament’s second-oldest champion in 2019.

“The United States is now proud to honor Tiger Woods whose tenacity, will power, and unyielding drive inspire us all,” the aide said.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to American life, history, and culture. Previous recipients include golf champions Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Charlie Sifford. Presidents have complete discretion over who they honor with the medal.

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Woods revealed he was close friends with Sifford and affectionately called him grandpa.

“He was the grandpa I never had and I ended up becoming so close with him that I ended up naming my son Charlie [Axel] after him, so to have been chosen as the next golfer after Charlie [Sifford] is truly remarkable,” he said.

The champion gave an emotional thank you to his mother, Kultida Punsawad, and other family members who had supported him throughout the years.

“Everyone here has seen and been with me, some of you for my entire life, and some of you for more than half my life. You have seen the good and the bad, the highs and lows and I would not be in this position without all of your help,” he said. “In 97, yes I won the Masters and I ended up hugging my Dad and my Mom. My Dad is no longer here but my Mom is here. I love you Mom, thank you.” Woods’s father, Earl, passed away more than a decade ago.

Woods thanked his 11-year-old daughter Sam Alexis, 10-year-old son Charlie, girlfriend Erica Herman, and caddie Joe LaCava, who, along with Kultida, were all with him at the ceremony.

“You guys have meant so much in my life,” he said. “I have battled and I have tried to hang in there, and come back … the amazing Masters experience that I just had a few weeks ago certainly is part of the highlight of what I have accomplished in my life on the golf course. To have had that type of experience and to be able to come out on top and win, Joey thank you [for] all the great reads.”

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