Tiger Woods is a once-in-a-lifetime type of athlete. Not because he’s proven time and again, he’s superior in golf. Not because he’s just three majors short of tying Jack Nicklaus for most major victories (18). Wood’s athletic prowess is magnified by his innate ability to generate wide-spread interest—particularly for a sport that, in general, attracts only avid fans.
When Tiger won the Masters last month, everyone cared.
A literal mob of people flocked closely to Woods as he strolled the green on Championship Sunday. In fact, Woods once again generated so much star power, Nike reportedly raked in about $22.5 million worth of brand exposure just from his final round.
Guess what? Both Republicans and Democrats watched from their phones and television screens. Partisanship played no role in fans tripping over themselves to watch the greatest comeback in the history of golf. They wanted to see a man who, in spite of his marital affairs, struggles with successive injuries and pain killers that left him asleep at the wheel just two years prior, claw back from obscurity. He had fallen out of the top 1,000 rankings. But in that one weekend, Woods donned the green jacket of Augusta again and climbed to sixth in the world.
Then, all the goodwill suddenly dissipated when Woods, gasp, accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom on Monday. Trump Derangement Syndrome surged in full effect as liberals threw in the social media towel and columnists, like Paul Krugman of the New York Times, lambasted the ceremony.
Krugman’s tweet begs the question of whether age allows him to recall that three other golfers accepted the same award. Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus received the honor in 2004 and 2005, respectively, and in 2014 Charlie Sifford became the first African-American in the PGA bestowed with the medal from…President Barack Obama. That’s right. The Democrats’ savior president also recognized prowess in life and golf. Both Obama and Trump love the sport, a fact conveniently lost in the hate-Trump-at-all-costs narrative.
Type in “Woods” on social media, and you’ll see plenty of vitriol towards the golfer for merely showing up at the White House on Monday. But, like a true champion (and someone well-versed in public takedowns), Woods remained unbothered.
“This has been an unbelievable experience,” Woods said to reporters. “To have the support that I’ve had for all these years. Everyone here has seen and been with me for, some of you, my entire life. I’ve battled. I’ve tried to hang in there and play the great game of golf again.”
In both his victory at the Masters (his first major win since 2008) and poise at the White House podium, one thing stood out more than the rest: Woods’ love for his children. They hugged him in front of the cameras at Augusta and beamed with pride as their father accepted the incredible award. That is the memory we should all take away from this.
Those who like and follow Woods do so not out of perfection, but because he picked himself back up and tried again. Something all of us will have to do at one time or another. Everybody has a skeleton in their closet, a mistake they made, or a fear they’re trying to overcome. Most just don’t have to live that out in public.
Woods’ incredible comeback win at Augusta and subsequent accolades embody the human spirit more than anything else. A 43-year-old man finally evolved into the person he wanted to be—the person his beloved late father dreamt he’d become. President Trump recognized that, as should we all.