The big surprise in Tiger Woods’ decision to visit Donald Trump on Monday to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom is not that he is going to spend time with the controversial president, a man who said there were “some very fine people on both sides” during the deadly white nationalist riots in Charlottesville in 2017.
Tiger apparently long ago made his peace with Trumpism, choosing to play golf with the president on occasion while remaining silent about what he actually thinks of him. Unlike his peers LeBron James and Serena and Venus Williams, Tiger has never been one to take a stand on any big cultural or societal issue. He made that clear early on when, days after winning the 1997 Masters, he turned down President Bill Clinton’s invitation to attend a 50th anniversary celebration of Jackie Robinson to go on vacation in Mexico.
When you make a decision like that at 21, hanging with a guy like Trump when you’re 43 is no problem at all.
The surprise in this story is that the only man who can win the Grand Slam in golf in 2019 is going to spend the better part of a day away from the golf course with the PGA Championship just a week and a half away.
That’s only one of the quizzical developments in Tiger’s scheduling decisions since he won his first major championship in nearly 11 years at the Masters last month. Woods likely won’t play any tournaments between the Masters and the PGA Championship, meaning he will not hit a competitive shot between his final putt on the 18th green Sunday at Augusta National and his opening tee shot May 16 at Bethpage Black on Long Island.
Tiger Woods will be Donald Trump's guest at the White House on Monday. (Photo: Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports)
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Now that’s fascinating. It’s also unusual and a little weird, but Tiger is certainly aware of his schedule and his body and his abilities, so he gets to make the decisions he believes are best for his career. I mean, he just won the Masters, so who cares what we think? Whatever he says goes, no matter how bizarre it might sound.
As for Tiger deciding to accept the Presidential Medal of Freedom, that one is a no brainer for him, as it probably would be for many people, even from Trump. The medal is considered the nation’s highest civilian honor. Golfers Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Charlie Sifford have won it, and Trump gave posthumous awards to Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley in 2018.
What could be a better strategy for Trump than to attach himself to popular male athletes for a few minutes in the White House? The optics are perfect for him. It’s an excellent distraction and a lovely photo op.
Since the Babe clearly wasn’t available for pictures, and Elvis likely had left the building, Tiger truly is a masterful choice.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Christine Brennan on Twitter @cbrennansports.
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