Woods called ‘true legend’ as Trump awards honor

Pro Golf

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump awarded golfer Tiger Woods the nation’s highest civilian honor on Monday, describing the 43-year-old as a “true legend” who transformed golf and then fought through years of injury to return to the sport’s summit.

Trump awarded Woods with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He’s the fourth golfer to earn that distinction and certainly the youngest. While Woods dominated the sport for more than a decade, he won his first major in nearly 11 years at last month’s Masters Tournament, a comeback that captivated the sporting world.

“Tiger was back on top,” Trump declared during the Rose Garden ceremony.

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. But the president’s decision to award the nation’s highest civilian honor to Woods also raised scrutiny about whether the president should be boosting the profile of a business associate of The Trump Organization.

Trump understood the importance of Woods comeback to golf and its fans, tweeting shortly after the Masters win 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.”

In Dubai, Woods designed an 18-hole course to be managed by The Trump Organization.

Ethics officials have criticized Trump for not selling off his assets completely and holding the money in a blind trust. Instead, he set up a trust to hold his assets, handed day-to-day management responsibilities to two sons and hired an ethics lawyer to vet business deals. Trump can draw money from the trust and can benefit if his properties increase in value.

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