Tiger Woods Pays Tribute to Nelson Mandela

Tiger Woods joined fellow golfer Ernie Els in paying his respects to the late Nelson Mandela with a heart warming tweet, which simply said: “You will always be in my heart Mr. Mandela.”

Tiger then followed up that tweet with another, saying: “Pop & I felt your aura when we met, I feel it today & I will feel it forever.” He also went on to comment that the death of Nelson Mandela was “a sad day for many people,” especially those who had the chance to meet him.

15 years ago Tiger Woods had that opportunity when he was in South Africa for the Million Dollar Challenge, now known as the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Woods furthered his sentiments towards Mandela by adding: “It’s sad for everyone who got a chance to not only meet him, but I’ve been influenced by him.” Woods’ words came on Thursday after the first round of his Northwestern Mutual World Challenge.

Woods did not discuss his much-told stories of Mandela, which he had been over many times through the years, instead opting to speak of how those experiences made him feel. He said: “I got a chance to meet him with my father back in `98. He invited us to his home, and it was one of the most inspiring times I’ve ever had in my life.”

At this year’s Open Championship at Muirfield in Scotland Woods spoke of the feeling when he and his late father Earl walked into a living room in Mandela’s home and the feeling of a presence which overcame him; a presence which to this day he still cannot adequately describe.

“It still gives me chills to this day, thinking about it,” said Woods at Muirfield all that time ago. “A gentleman asked us to go into this side room over here and, `President Mandela will join you in a little bit. And we walked in the room, and my dad and I were just kind of looking around. And I said, `Dad, do you feel that? And he says, `Yeah, it feels different in this room.

“And it was just like a different energy in the room.

“We just looked at each other and just shrugged our shoulders and whatever. And maybe, I’m guessing probably 30 seconds later, I heard some movement behind me and it was President Mandela folding up the paper. And it was pretty amazing.

“The energy that he has, that he exudes, is unlike any person I’ve ever met. And it was an honour to meet him at his home. And that’s an experience that I will never, ever forget.”

Woods was the first player of black heritage to win The Masters in 1997 with a record-breaking performance. The week after Thanksgiving he played the Casio World Open in Japan and then made his first trip to South Africa.

Woods, when speaking to The Associate Press in a 2003 interview, had this to say about Mandela: “If you’re a minority, you’ve read up on what he did. To go through what he did for 27 years and come out and be as humble as he was, and then run the country … how tough a person do you have to be to do that?”

Woods later returned to South Africa after five years for the Presidents Cup; during a time when there was uncertainty surrounding whether Americans would travel such long distance in November for an event. Woods, however, didn’t give it a moment’s hesitation, and immediately told the AP he would go. He also said he’d have received a phone call from Mandela.

“How can you not want to do anything for that man?” was the question he posed, and it was a question which would be hard to argue.

News of Nelson Mandela’s passing reached Tiger after he finished his round at Sherwood Country Club and before he was set to speak to reporters.

“He certainly had an impact on my life and certainly my father’s,” explained Woods. “When he came out of prison, the country could have fallen apart. It could have gone a lot of different ways, and he led it to where it’s at now. And the world is going to miss him.”

Through it all, however, Woods maintains that it was Mandela’s ability to spend 27 years in prison and then emerge without hatred that he always found hard to fathom. “I don’t think any of us probably here could have survived that and come out as humble and as dignified as he did,” expressed Woods. “And to lead an entire nation and to basically love the world when he came out, I think that’s a testament to his will and his spirit and who he was.”