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. He’s the fourth golfer to earn that distinction and certainly the youngest. While Woods 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.
If there were a Mount Rushmore for golfers, Woods would almost certainly be on it. He ranks second in PGA Tour wins and in major tournament victories.[Sponsored] Shocking Truth About Clotting
Trump understood the importance of Woods comeback to golf and its fans, tweeting shortly after the Masters win that he was awarding Woods the medal because of his “incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE.”
Trump has been friends with Woods for decades. Trump got Woods to show up at his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, a day after the golfer’s first Masters victory in 1997. The place was mobbed. Two thousand fans showed up as Woods walked down a 320-foot red carpet, some of them storming steel barricades to get a closer look.
Trump has also struck business deals with Woods.
Golfers at Trump’s club in Doral, Florida, can stay at the Tiger Woods Villa. At a ribbon cutting ceremony in 2014, Woods lavished praise on the future presidential candidate, calling changes he made to the club “phenomenal.”
In Dubai, Woods designed an 18-hole course to be managed by The Trump Organization.
President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Freedom to Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. 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.
Devine also noted that previous presidents have presented the award to supporters and political donors.
For example, Obama awarded the Medal of Freedom to Bruce Springsteen, who performed in concerts to support Obama’s election efforts. He also awarded it to his vice president, Joe Biden.
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.”
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.
You can watch the ceremony below:
The Associated Press contributed to this article