Golfer Tiger Woods has choked up as US President Donald Trump presented him with America’s highest civilian honour in a ceremony at the White House.
Mr Trump described 43-year-old Woods as a “true legend” who transformed golf and then fought through years of injury to return to the sport’s summit.
In a ceremony in the Rose Garden on Tuesday (Australian time), Mr Trump awarded Woods the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
He is the fourth golfer to earn the distinction – and the youngest. Among 33 athletes to have received the medal, Woods is the first who is still active in his sport.
Woods took the Rose Garden podium to a standing ovation after Mr Trump’s 15-minute speech honouring him. He thanked those who had supported him over the years, becoming emotional as he spoke of his parents.
“You’ve seen the good and bad, the highs and lows, and I would not be in this position without all of your help,” he said.
“I’ve battled … I’ve tried to hang in there, and I’ve tried to come back and play the great game of golf again.”
Woods won the US Masters in April, ending a near 11-year wait for his 15th major championship. During that time, he had endured a marital infidelity scandal that ended in divorce, a debilitating spine injury, an addiction to prescription painkillers and grave doubts about his athletic longevity.
His comeback at Augusta captivated the sporting world, including Mr Trump, who is a devoted fan.
“Tiger was back on top,” Mr Trump declared during Tuesday’s award ceremony.
“We can’t wait to see what’s next Tiger … There are no winners like you.”
It’s an incredible privilege to be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 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. pic.twitter.com/33CJIHwQvz
— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) May 7, 2019
If there were a Mount Rushmore for golfers, Woods would almost certainly be on it. He ranks second in PGA Tour wins and in major tournament victories.
On Tuesday, however, he and Mr Trump laughed when the President recalled how Woods once fell as low as 1191 in golf’s official world rankings. This week he is at No.6.
Woods was joined at the medal ceremony by his mother, his children and girlfriend Erica Herman. His long-time caddie, Joe LaCava, also attended.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is given to individuals who have made “especially meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavours”, according to the White House. Presidents have complete discretion over whom they honour with the medal.
Some athletes and sports champions have resisted visiting the Trump White House because of their differences with the President.
Rick Reilly, who wrote a book about Mr Trump’s golfing, entitled Commander in Cheat, said Woods has brought golf to people of colour all over the world.