Tiger Woods received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honour possible for civilians in the United States, from President Trump on Monday.
Fresh off winning the 15th major of his extraordinary career having triumphed in the 2019 US Masters at Augusta in April, Woods’ resume now boasts the Presidential Medal of Freedom after he was given the prestigious honour by the US president in the Rose Garden at the White House on May 6.
Trump had announced his intention to award Woods the Presidential Medal following his victory in the Masters, which completed a remarkable comeback from injury back to the top of the game and moved him to within three of Jack Nicklaus’ record 18 major wins.
Trump tweeted at the time: “Spoke to @TigerWoods to congratulate him on the great victory he had in yesterday’s @TheMasters, & to inform him that because of his incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE, I will be presenting him with the PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM!”
Handing Woods the medal at the White House, Trump said the 43-year-old was “one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports” and added: “We are in the presence of a true legend, an extraordinary athlete who has transformed golf and achieved new levels of dominance.
“He’s also a great person. He’s a great guy. 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.”
Woods shed a tear during an emotional speech as he paid tribute to his late father Earl and the family present with him at the ceremony—mother Kultida, children Sam and Charlie and girlfriend Erica Herman.
“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,” Woods said. “I’ve battled, I try to hang in there, and I’ve tried to come back and play the great game of golf again.”
Woods, who has in the past played golf with Trump, is the first active athlete to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was first introduced by John F Kennedy in 1963.
The award, which recognises the achievements of “individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the security or national interests of America, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavours,” has been presented to fellow golfers Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Charlie Sifford, the PGA Tour’s first black player previously.
Tennis legend Billie Jean King and Michael Jordan, one of the NBA’s greatest ever players, are other sports stars to have been given the award, but none before they had retired. Baseball god Babe Ruth was given the award posthumously.
Woods rolled back the years to win his 15th career major at Augusta, 14 years since he last got his hands on the famous green jacket at the US Masters.
It was fairy tale rise back to major success for Woods following off-course problems and back injuries that had threatened to deny him a shot at Nicklaus’ record 18 major hauls.
Woods, after all, had dropped to 1,169 during his absence from the course, but his career record now stands at 81 PGA Tour wins.
Woods signed off the day with an Instagram post to fans, stating: “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.”