A day after Tiger Woods won his fifth Masters title and 15th major tournament in a rousing resurrection of his career, President Donald Trump said Monday he would give him an honor almost as exclusive as a green jacket from Augusta National Golf Club: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Trump said on Twitter that he would bestow the award, without saying when. “Because of his incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more important, LIFE, I will be presenting him with the PRESIDENTIAL MEDAL OF FREEDOM!,” Trump wrote.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the nation’s highest civilian honor, awarded to those who make outstanding contributions to national security or national interest, world peace, culture or other public or private endeavors. The medal has been awarded since 1963 and is typically given to a dozen or fewer people each year.
Over the years numerous sports figures have received it, especially under the presidencies of George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Trump, all noted sports fans.
Just last year Babe Ruth, Roger Staubach and Alan Page were awarded Presidential Medals of Freedom. Woods will not be the first golfer to get the award; Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus were honored in consecutive years in the mid 2000s, and Charles Sifford, the first African-American to play on the PGA Tour, was honored in 2014. But it is rare for an active athlete to receive the honor.
Woods has a long-standing relationship with Trump, who is an avid golfer. They own property near each other in Florida and have golfed together a number of times, both before and after Trump became president.
In February, Trump tweeted a picture of himself with Woods and Nicklaus at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida. The next day, Trump wrote on Twitter, “Tiger is back & will be winning Majors again!”
Over the years Trump has repeatedly tweeted about watching Woods play golf.
They are also business partners. Woods is designing the course at Trump World Golf Club Dubai, set to open this year.
Woods acknowledges having played golf with Trump and having eaten together, but otherwise he is reluctant to speak about their relationship. “Well, he’s the president of the United States,” Woods said last year. “You have to respect the office.”
Still, while several African-American athletes have criticized Trump or kept their distance, Woods, who is of African-American and Thai descent, has maintained his relationship with him.
When asked last August after a tournament if he had any thoughts about race relations in America, Woods demurred. “No, I just finished 72 holes,” he said. “And really hungry.”