Woods breaks down at White House
GOLF legend Tiger Woods, fresh off his epic comeback victory in the Masters, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by US President Donald Trump at the White House on Monday.
Presenting the golfing great with the nation's highest honour, Trump praised Woods' "relentless will to win, win, win."
"These qualities embody the American spirit of pushing boundaries, defying limits and always striving for greatness," the president said.
Trump congratulated Woods on "your amazing comeback and your amazing life and for giving sports fans a lifetime of memories.
"We can't wait to see what's next, Tiger," he said.
The 43-year-old Woods choked up as he thanked his mother, his two children, his girlfriend and his caddy during the ceremony in the White House Rose Garden.
"You have seen the good and the bad, the highs and the lows," said Woods, who battled back from injury to win the Masters last month, his first major title since the 2008 US Open.
"My dad is no longer here, but my mum is here," Woods said.
"I love you, Mum.
"I have tried to hang in there and I have tried to come back and play the great game of golf again," Woods said.
"I have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to do it again."
He said his Masters victory was "probably the highlight of what I have accomplished so far in my life on the golf course.
"To have had that type of experience and to be able to come out on top and win," he said.
Established by John F. Kennedy in 1963, the Presidential Medal of Freedom is bestowed upon those who have made an "especially meritorious" contribution to US security or national interests, world peace, cultural pursuits or other non-specified endeavours.
It has been awarded to nearly three dozen sports figures including golf legends Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, honoured by president George W. Bush.
President Barack Obama gave the medal in 2014 to Charlie Sifford, the first African American golfer to play on the PGA Tour.
Despite the warm reception at the White House, the decision to award Woods the honour was initially met with criticism from political commentators, who questioned the motived behind the award.
President Donald Trump's decision to award the nation's highest civilian honour to Woods has raised questions about whether the president should be boosting the profile of a business associate of The Trump Organisation.
Trump understood the importance Woods' emotional Masters fairytale last month, tweeting that he was awarding Woods the medal because of his "incredible Success & Comeback in Sports (Golf) and, more importantly, LIFE."
Trump has been using Woods' cachet to attract fans to his properties for decades. Trump got Woods to show up at his Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey, a day after the golfer's first Masters victory in 1997.
The place was mobbed. Two thousand fans showed up as Woods walked down a 320-foot red carpet, some of them storming steel barricades to get a closer look. 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."
"You have to ask whether it's his true belief Tiger Woods deserves this award or whether he's doing it to help his business," said Jordan Libowitz, communications director at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning public policy group.
Christopher Devine, an associate professor of political science at the University of Dayton, said Trump may have a business angle.
Woods is the fourth professional golfer to receive the award. President George W. Bush presented the Medal of Freedom to Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Obama presented it to Charlie Sifford, sometimes referred to as the "Jackie Robinson of golf."
The 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.
- with AP