Donald Trump did as promised Monday and awarded golf great Tiger Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, during a ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.
Trump called Woods, whom he’s known for a number of years, a “global symbol of American excellence,” and a “true legend.”
“He’s also a great person,” added Trump, according to the Washington Times.
Woods, even at the relatively young age of 43, definitely has the receipts to ensure his status as a golfing legend.
He won his first Masters in 1997 at the age of 21, and after a 14-year drought, marred by injuries and personal scandal, made a historic comeback this year to win his fifth Masters in April. All in all, Woods has won 81 PGA titles and 15 majors.
Surrounded by his family and friends Monday, Woods said: “This is an honor. You’ve seen the good and the bad, the highs and the lows. This has been an unbelievable experience.”
Presidents can award the Presidential Medal of Freedom to anyone they choose. Woods is the fourth golfer to receive the award. President George W. Bush honored Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus with the medal, while President Barack Obama presented it to Charlie Sifford, sometimes, as the Associated Press notes, referred to as the “Jackie Robinson of golf.”
Woods says he named his son after Sifford, the AP reports. “He was like the grandpa I never had,” Woods recalled.
However, as the AP reports, some watchdogs question Trump’s decision to honor Woods given the nature of their relationship, one they say has served to benefit Trump’s business interests.
As the AP explains, over the years:
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.
And Trump has had Woods make appearances at his golfing and other holdings to attract patrons.
AP notes that unlike past presidents, Trump did not sell off his assets completely upon taking the Oval Office, and thus can make money in real time if his investments pay off.
Despite the optics and the possibility Trump may have a business angle in awarding Woods, Christopher Devine, an associate professor of political science at the University of Dayton, tells the AP that Woods’ achievements alone make him most deserving of the Medal of Freedom.
“If President Obama or Hillary Clinton had given the award to Tiger, no one would have batted an eye,” Devine said.
Jordan Libowitz, with the left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, sees it differently.
“You have to ask whether it’s his true belief Tiger Woods deserves this award,” Libowitz said of Trump, “or whether he’s doing it to help his business.”