President Donald Trump announced in a tweet on April 15 that he is going to present Tiger Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for the athlete’s “incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE.” The news came one day after Woods won the Masters Golf Tournament, a major championship in professional golf, for the fifth time in his career.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom constitutes the highest award that can be given to a civilian in peacetime and is typically given to twelve or fewer people per year. Recipients are those who have made significant contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, world peace, or other significant undertakings. Since its establishment in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, many different, well-known Americans have been given the award for their work in a wide range of fields such as art, business, and sports.
Some prominent people who have received it in the past include Maya Angelou, Walt Disney, Audrey Hepburn, and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Athletes who have won it include Willie Mays, Michael Jordan, and most recently, NFL Hall of Famer Alan Page.
For those who don’t know, Eldrick Tont Woods, better known as Tiger Woods, is an American professional golfer and is considered one of the greatest golfers of all time, ranking second in both major championships and Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour wins, as well as holding numerous records in the sport.
The subject of the “comeback” that Trump referred to started in 2008, when Woods had to withdraw from golf for half of the season due to the aggravation of a knee injury for which he had surgery earlier that year. Woods’s life took an unexpected turn in the following years when he began to struggle in golf, failing to win any major titles. Additionally, the odd circumstances of a car crash in 2009 led to significant scrutiny regarding his personal life, revealing a number of infidelities. Woods and his wife Elin Nordegren divorced in August of that year. It was nationally broadcasted that Woods had cheated on Nordegren, and as a result, some of his sponsors, including AT&T and Gatorade, rescinded their partnerships. The subsequent years held both good and bad seasons and more mishaps in his personal life. However, Woods shocked the golfing world after he made an unlikely recovery to win the Masters tournament for the first time in 14 years.
Trump and Woods are known to have a tight relationship, and the president has tweeted many times offering the athlete praise. Additionally, the two have golfed together, and Woods is designing a course for one of Trump’s future golf clubs. Contrary to other athletes of color who have criticized the president, Woods seems to have maintained his relationship with the president, but has neglected to share details regarding the matter when questioned by the press.
The close friendship between the two makes the choice by President Trump slightly questionable. Woods will not be the first golfer to receive the Medal of Honor, but will be one of the few active athletes who has been chosen to receive the award.