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Trump announced that the White House would bestow Woods with the nation’s highest civilian honor after Woods won the Masters in April, completing a remarkable career comeback for his 15th major title and first since 2008.
Woods accepted the invitation and received the award at a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden on Monday evening. He becomes the fourth golfer to receive the award, joining Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Charlie Sifford.
Trump awards ‘true legend’ Tiger Woods
“It is my privilege to award our nation’s highest civilian honor to one of the greatest athletes in the history of sports, Tiger Woods,” Trump said in the Rose Garden ceremony. “Tiger, congratulations on receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.”
Trump acknowledged Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava, who was sitting in the audience, before touting Woods’ accolades in a thorough account of Woods’ career, giving a detailed recap of his career achievements.
“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. “He’s also a great person. He’s a great guy.
“Tiger introduced countless new people to the sport of golf from every background and from every walk of life. … Tiger Woods is a global symbol of American excellence, devotion and drive.”
Trump: Woods ‘remembers the good stuff’
Trump briefly alluded to Woods’ career and personal downfall that includes his public divorce from wife Elin Nordegren and ensuing struggles on the course for years that preceded his comeback capped by last month’s win at Augusta.
“He’s got a great memory, this guy,” Trump said while looking at Woods. “He remembers the good stuff, which is really important. Not the bad.”
Woods gets emotional
An emotional Woods addressed the attendees at the Rose Garden, who included family and supporters and gave him a standing ovation.
“You’ve seen the good and the bad, the highs and the lows,” Woods said. “I would not be in this position without all of your help.
Award not without controversy
The selection of Woods was not without controversy as Woods and Trump have business ties, and Trump’s presidency is marred by concerns that he uses his office to further his businesses that he has not divested from.
Woods designed a Dubai golf course managed by The Trump Organization, and has a villa named after him at one of Trump’s properties in Doral, Florida.
"You have to ask whether it's his true belief Tiger Woods deserves this award or whether he's doing it to help his business," said Jordan Libowitz, communications director of the public policy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.
Christopher Devine, a political science professor at Dayton, made the point that Woods’ accomplishments merit the honor, regardless of any conflict that may exist for Trump.
"If President Obama or Hillary Clinton had given the award to Tiger, no one would have batted an eye," Devine told the Associated Press.
History of the award
Other athletes to receive the honor include Bill Russell, Jackie Robinson, Babe Ruth, Michael Jordan and Muhammad Ali.
President John F. Kennedy established the award in 1963 to honor those who have 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.”
The president alone chooses who receives the award, which has been given nearly 600 times to artists, educators, public servants, entertainers, journalists and athletes, among recipients in other endeavors.
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