Golf legend Jack Nicklaus defended Tiger Woods’s recent decision to avoid criticizing President Donald Trump and his controversial immigration policies.
Woods, a friend and sometime golf partner of Trump, called Sunday for respect for the office of the president after being asked about his relationship with Trump, as well as race relations in the country.
‘I thought Tiger handled it very well,’ said Nicklaus, whose 18 major championship wins rank first in golf history ahead of Woods’ 14 titles.
‘No matter’s who’s president, whether it was Barack Obama or Donald Trump, I think you respect the office,’ Nicklaus told Fox News. ‘I’m much in Tiger’s camp on that.’
Woods, a friend and sometime golf partner of Trump, called Sunday for respect for the office of the president after being asked about his relationship with Trump, as well as race relations in the country. Nicklaus supported Woods’s response, but told Fox News that he was on the network’s morning show to discuss his charity, Folds of Honor, and not the President
However, Nicklaus was not on Fox News’ morning show to discuss Trump or Woods, and quickly turned the topic to Folds of Honor, a charity he works with that provides scholarships to the children and spouses of fallen and disabled service members.
‘We’re here to talk about Folds of Honor,’ Nicklaus told Fox News’ Steve Doocy. ‘That’s why we’re here.’
The resurgent Woods – who has not won a tournament since 2013, but finished second at the PGA Championship last week – had been asked a question that referenced Trump’s controversial immigration policies on Sunday.
‘At a time, especially 2018, I think a lot of people, especially people of color, immigrants, feel threatened by him, by his policies, he’s thrown himself into sports debates in terms of race with LeBron James, with the anthem,’ began one question to Woods on Sunday, according to USA Today. ‘What do you say to people who might find it interesting that you, I guess, have a friendly relationship with him?’
In response, Woods told reporters: ‘He’s the president of the United States and you have to respect the office.’
‘And no matter who’s in the office, you may like, dislike personality or the politics, but we all must respect the office.’
Trump responded Monday by praising Woods and criticizing journalists.
‘The Fake News Media worked hard to get Tiger Woods to say something that he didn’t want to say. Tiger wouldn’t play the game – he is very smart. More importantly, he is playing great golf again!’ Trump said on Twitter.
Like many prominent members of the golf world, Nicklaus is familiar with Trump. In this picture from 2015, the PGA legend can be seen unveiling of the Jack Nicklaus Villa at Trump Doral
The President praised Woods for sidestepping questions about Trump’s immigration policy
Ivanka Trump, Tiger woods, Donald Trump and Eric Trump after the final round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at the Trump Doral Golf Resort & Spa in 2013
Just as he did with previous presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Woods has played golf with Trump on several occasions, and the two have stayed in touch since the latter’s inauguration.
‘Well, I’ve known Donald for a number of years,’ Woods told reporters Sunday.
‘We’ve played golf together. We’ve had dinner together. I’ve known him pre-presidency and obviously during his presidency.’
Eric Trump, golfing legend Jack Nicklaus and Donald Trump Jr. pose for photos during a ribbon cutting event for a new clubhouse at Trump Golf Links at Ferry Point in June
Woods was also asked about racial relations in America, but he declined to give a response.
‘No,’ Woods said, ‘I just finished 72 holes and [I’m] really hungry.’
In 2008, Woods did not hesitate to praise Obama publicly.
‘I think it’s absolutely incredible,’ Woods told CNBC. ‘He represents America. He’s multiracial. I was hoping it would happen in my lifetime. My father was hoping it would happen in his lifetime, but he didn’t get to see it. I’m lucky enough to have seen a person of color in the White House.’
Woods was coming off an impressive runner-up finish at the PGA Championship, but struggled on Sunday before finishing with a 70 for the round, which left him 14 shots off the lead.
Bryson DeChambeau shot a 2-under 69 on Sunday to win his second tournament of the year. He finished 18-under overall.
Woods is not the only professional athlete to sidestep questions about his relationship with Trump.
New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has also played golf with Trump, and even went so far as to endorse his bid for presidency during the 2016 campaign. However, when asked in January of 2017 if he called to congratulate Trump on his victory, Brady balked: ‘Let’s talk about football.’
President George W. Bush visits with US Team player Tiger Woods during the Afternoon Four-Ball Matches for the 39th Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club on September 29, 2012 in Illinois
Captain’s assistant Tiger Woods of the U.S. Team speaks to former U.S. President Barack Obama on the first tee during Thursday foursome matches of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 28, 2017 in Jersey City, New Jersey
Trump has had a more contentious relationship with other athletes – namely NFL players who he has condemned for protesting inequality and police brutality by refusing to stand during the national anthem.
Former NBA MVP winners LeBron James and Stephen Curry have both exchanged criticisms with Trump through traditional and social media as well.
Donald Trump the 45th president of the United States talks to USA vice captain Tiger Woods after the final round of the Presidents Cup at Liberty National Golf Club on September 30, 2017 in Jersey City
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr have also publicly criticized Trump for everything from his response to gun violence to claims that the President has used race to divide the country.
However, unlike James and Curry – both of whom Trump has called out by name, specifically disinviting them from a potential White House visit – the President has not mentioned Popovich or Kerr publicly.
Trump has received many endorsements from current and former athletes, including boxer-turned-promoter Floyd Mayweather Jr., former Buffalo Bills offensive guard Rickie Incognito, former NFL coach Mike Ditka, and current Patriots coach Bill Belichick.
An avid golfer, Trump owns and operates many golf courses and resorts, both in the United States and abroad.
In fact, Woods has won several tournaments at the Trump National Doral resort near Miami.
Barack Obama hosts the 2013 Presidents Cup team at the White House in 2013, including Tiger Woods, PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem (far left) and US golfer Zack Johnson (near left)