WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump awarded golfer Tiger Woods the nation’s highest civilian honor on Monday, describing the 43-year-old as a “true legend” who transformed golf and then fought through years of injury to return to the sport’s summit.
Trump awarded Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Woods is the fourth golfer to earn that distinction and certainly the youngest. While he dominated the sport for more than a decade, he won his first major in nearly 11 years at last month’s Masters Tournament, a comeback that captivated the sporting world.
“Tiger was back on top,” Trump declared during the Rose Garden ceremony.
Trump described the litany of victories Woods has obtained during his remarkable career and the injuries that almost derailed it.
“This evening, we are in the presence of a true legend, an extraordinary athlete who has transformed golf and achieved new levels of dominance,” Trump said during the presentation. “He’s also a great person. He’s a great guy.”
Heartfelt congrats to @TigerWoods on receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom this evening! His impact on golf and his ability to inspire others to play this great game is on par with his incredible talent!
— Jack Nicklaus (@jacknicklaus) May 6, 2019
Woods was joined at the ceremony by his mother, Kutilda; daughter, Sam Alexis, 11; son, Charlie Axel, 10; and girlfriend, Erica Herman. Woods’ father, Earl, passed away more than a decade ago. Woods’ longtime caddie, Joe LaCava, also attended.
Woods became emotional as he spoke of his parents, and he thanked those who have supported him over the years, saying, “You’ve seen the good and bad, the highs and lows, and I would not be in this position without all of your help.”
Woods tweeted after the White House ceremony:
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. pic.twitter.com/33CJIHwQvz
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) May 7, 2019
President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Freedom to Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer. Obama presented it to Charlie Sifford, sometimes referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of golf.” Woods noted that he named his son after Sifford. “He was like the grandpa I never had,” Woods recalled.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is given to individuals who have made “especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors,” according to the White House. Presidents have complete discretion over whom they honor with the medal.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.