Tiger Woods receives Presidential Medal of Freedom

5/10/2019, 6 a.m.
When Tiger Woods won the Masters Tournament on April 14, President Trump declared he was going to award him the …
Golf champion Tiger Woods stands tall as President Trump places the Presidential Medal of Freedom around his neck during a ceremony Monday in the White House Rose Garden. Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters/TPX Images of the Day


When Tiger Woods won the Masters Tournament on April 14, President Trump declared he was going to award him the Presidential Medal of Freedom and ordered his aides to schedule the event as soon as possible.

On Monday, Mr. Woods accepted the award.

At a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, President Trump made the 43-year-old Mr. Woods the fourth — and youngest — professional golfer to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor, after Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Charlie Sifford.

With 81 PGA Tour victories, Mr. Woods is one victory shy of Sam Snead’s all-time record. And with 15 major tournament victories, he trails only Mr. Nicklaus, who has 18.

But it was Mr. Woods’ dramatic Masters victory at Augusta National Golf Club last month, ending an 11-year major championship drought, which capped a years-long comeback from injuries and drama in his personal life, including an arrest two years ago for driving under the influence.

President Trump eagerly leapt onto the Tiger bandwagon. The two have played golf a number of times, most recently with Mr. Nicklaus in February at President Trump’s course in Jupiter, Fla.

At a ceremony attended by several members of Congress, President Trump called Mr. Woods “a true legend.”

“He’s a great guy,” President Trump said. “He introduced countless new people to the sport of golf, from every background and walk of life. ... Tiger Woods is a global symbol of American excellence, devotion and drive.”

Mr. Woods, wearing a blue suit (not the Masters green jacket) was joined at the ceremony by his mother, Kultida Woods; his two children, Sam and Charlie; his girlfriend, Erica Herman; and his caddie, Joe LaCava.

“You’ve seen the good and the bad, the highs and the lows, and I wouldn’t be here without your help,” an emotional Mr. Woods said after the president placed the medal around his neck.

Mr. Woods recalled his breakthrough triumph at Augusta 22 years ago, which the then-21-year-old celebrated with his father and mentor, Earl Woods, who died in 2006.

“In ’91, yes, I won the Masters and I ended up hugging my dad and my mom,” Mr. Woods said.

“My dad is no longer here, but my mom is here. I love you, mom,” he added, his voice cracking with emotion as he went on to thank his children and his girlfriend.

Speaking directly to his loved ones, he added, “You guys have meant so much to me in my life. I’ve battled and I’ve tried to hang in there and I’ve tried to come back and play a great game of golf again.”

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to people who have made outstanding contributions to the security or national interests of the country, to world peace or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Since taking office, President Trump has given the award to several athletes, including former NFL players Roger Staubach and Alan Page, as well as posthumously to baseball great Babe Ruth.

With the golf world wondering if he has enough high-level golf in him to match Mr. Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors, Mr. Woods left a clue as to his aspirations, calling his recent Masters experience “certainly one of the highest that I’ve accomplished so far in my life on the golf course.”