Tiger Woods to receive Medal of Freedom from Trump at White House on Monday
By CINDY BOREN | The Washington Post | Published: May 2, 2019
As he prepares for another major golf tournament, Tiger Woods will squeeze in a visit with one of his golfing partners next week, heading to the White House on Monday to see President Trump and receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Woods will receive one of the nation's highest civilian awards in a Rose Garden ceremony that will fall 10 days before he gets back down to serious work and attempts to win his second major tournament of the season, the PGA Championship.
Woods and Trump are longtime business and golf partners and Trump tweeted that Woods would receive the Medal of Freedom shortly after he completed one of the greatest comebacks in sports by winning the Masters last month. Woods, who lives not far from Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, golfed with the president and Jack Nicklaus in early February, an event the president excitedly tweeted about. The two have teed off together several times, including at Christmastime in 2017 and at Thanksgiving last year.
As The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey noted in February, the White House is usually reluctant to confirm that Trump is golfing, but the Woods and Nicklaus grouping was special and reporters were allowed inside the president's Jupiter, Fla., club. The president later shared a photo on social media and the Trump Organization notes on its website that Woods and Nicklaus, who endorsed Trump for president, have designed courses for the company.
Sharing a friendship with this president has been tricky for some athletes, which New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady discovered when a "Make America Great Again" hat was found in his locker in September 2015. Brady pointed out that they have been longtime friends and golfing partners but added that "it's just a friendship." And, when the Patriots visited the White House after winning the Super Bowl in 2017, Brady had other plans and stayed away. Woods, like Brady, emphasized that the friendship predates the 2016 presidential election.
"We've played golf together. We've had dinner together. I've known him pre-presidency and obviously during his presidency," Woods said last summer at the Northern Trust. Woods was asked how he felt about Trump's immigration policy, and he drew a line between the presidency and the president. "He's the president of the United States. You have to respect the office," he said. "No matter who is in the office, you may like, dislike personality or the politics, but we all must respect the office."
That discretion earned praise from Trump, with the president tweeting: "The Fake News Media worked hard to get Tiger Woods to say something that he didn't want to say. Tiger wouldn't play the game - he is very smart. More importantly, he is playing great golf again!"
Last month, Trump was avidly watching as Woods won his fifth Masters and tweeted the next day that he would be presenting the golfer with the Presidential Medal of Freedom because of "his incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE." Woods would join fellow golfers Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Charles Sifford as Medal of Freedom recipients.
Woods has been keeping a low profile since winning the Masters. "I don't mind telling you I'm really sore," the 43-year-old golfer said immediately after the Masters. "I definitely won't be touching a golf club [Monday]."
His recovery is especially important because there is less time between the majors after the decision to move the PGA Championship from August to May, between April's Masters and June's U.S. Open. The PGA will take place on the Bethpage Black course on Long Island and Woods will play in a threesome with Brooks Koepka and Francesco Molinari for the first two days, keeping with the tradition of teaming the winners of the past three majors. Woods and Molinari were paired in the final group at the Masters and played together at last year's British Open, which Molinari won by two strokes.
As Trump noted, Woods overcame a lot to get to this point, recovering from personal issues and four back and knee surgeries to claim his 15th major and 81st overall PGA Tour victory. It was a comeback that delighted the president, who had predicted that Woods would be winning majors again.
"Everyone is asking how Tiger played yesterday," Trump tweeted after the round in early February. "The answer is Great! He was long, straight & putted fantastically well. He shot a 64. Tiger is back & will be winning Majors again! Not surprisingly, Jack also played really well. His putting is amazing! Jack & Tiger like each other."
Trump's love of the sport is well known, but it's also a business that has gotten him unwanted headlines. Earlier this week, The Post reported that undocumented workers at Trump National Golf Club Westchester in New York said they were sometimes told to work extra hours without pay. In January, The Post reported that undocumented workers at the club were fired as the fight over the president's desire for a border wall heated up and led to a government shutdown.