Analysis by WorldTribune Staff, May 7, 2019
A month after engineering a comeback for the ages at the Masters, Tiger Woods on May 6 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in a ceremony at the White House Rose Garden.
There was only one problem: The honor was granted by President Donald Trump.
Woods is the first active athlete and fourth golfer to receive the nation’s highest civilian honor. A total of 33 people from the sports world have been awarded the medal.
In remarks prior to awarding the medal, President Donald Trump said the 43-year-old Woods’ fifth victory at Augusta National capped off “one of the most incredible comebacks that golf, or any sport, has ever seen. Tiger, we are inspired by everything you’ve become and attained.”
“This has been an unbelievable experience,” said Woods, who will go for another major title next week at the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York.
After the president had announced Woods would get the honor, as with anything Trump says or does, a chorus of anti-Trumpers weighed in with what might be called hate if aimed at different targets.
Aaron Scherb, the director of legislative affairs for Common Cause, a watchdog group, told the Times that “Tiger Woods is obviously a very talented golfer,” but Trump awarding him the Medal of Freedom “shows he’s willing to use any tool of government to benefit his business and political allies.”
Related: ‘Respect’: Post-tournament interview with Tiger Woods turns political, Aug. 27, 2018
“It sullies everybody,” Rick Reilly, the author of “Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump”, told The New York Times. Reilly added that accepting the award “puts a big stain on Tiger.”
Shortly after the award was announced last month, Reilly tweeted: “How can @TigerWoods accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom from a man who thinks golf should only be for the rich? ‘Where you aspire to join a club someday, you want to play, (so) you go out and become successful.’ … Bull. If that were true, there’d BE no Tiger Woods.”
And, per the usual, there were also conspiracy theories floated.
CNN on-air personality Jim Acosta said Trump bestowing the honor on Woods was nothing more than an “advertisement” for a Trump-owned golf course that Woods had a hand in designing.
Acosta, at the ceremony for Woods, said Trump and the golfer “do have something of a business arrangement. The president’s company, the Trump Organization, hired Tiger Woods to design a golf course at the president’s company’s golf course in Dubai. Wolf, that obviously shows that there are some business ties between these two men. And I suppose a critic could argue after watching all of this that there might be somewhat of an advertisement going on here, a TV ad going on here in handing out this Presidential Medal of Freedom to Tiger Woods. It is, in effect, publicizing one of the Trump golf courses there in Dubai that Tiger Woods had a hand in. Although we should point out that particular course has not opened yet.”
During the May 6 ceremony, both Trump and Woods laughed when the president recalled how Woods fell to No. 1,191 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Woods is holding steady this week at No. 6, GolfWeek.com noted.
The other golfers to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom are Arnold Palmer (2004), Jack Nicklaus (2005) and Charlie Sifford (2014).
“It’s an incredible privilege to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” Woods later tweeted. “Considering the recipients, history, and what this means to me and my family, it’s also very humbling. Thank you all for your support and I hope this inspires others to never give up on their dreams.”