An emotional Tiger Woods choked back the tears as he was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame on Wednesday after a moving speech by his 14-year-old daughter Sam.
After Sam spoke of not knowing if her father would emerge in one piece from last year’s horrific car crash, Woods recalled battling racism as a junior player and the support of his parents, coaches and friends.
“I didn’t get here alone,” said the 46-year-old American. “I had unbelievable parents, mentors and friends who supported me in the darkest of times and celebrated the highest of times.
“It’s actually a team award. All of you allowed me to get here and I just want to say thank you from the bottom of my heart.”
It is unclear whether Woods will return to the game. He moved slowly on the stage, suddenly looking all of his years and clearly still feeling the effects of the crash in February 2021, but his importance to the game is still huge.
He recently won the PGA Tour’s Player Impact Programme, and with it $8m (£6m), for generating more media interest than any other golfer in 2021 – even though he played just one exhibition tournament in 2021.
His last official PGA Tour event was the 2020 Masters but last November a social media post of him hitting golf balls under the title “making progress” attracted 7.8 million views on Twitter.
In a glittering career Woods has won 15 majors – second only to Jack Nicklaus’ 18 – and a joint record 82 times on the PGA Tour with Sam Snead.
And in a recorded video message, Nicklaus paid tribute by saying “I first saw him when has about 13. I watched this skinny kid hit a few balls and I was told he’d be good. I said we’d see about that. We’ve now seen.”
PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said: “Sport needs hype. Not many people live up to it. Tiger exceeded it.”
His list of playing achievements is lengthy, including spending a record 683 weeks as world number one, but he is also recognised for his work with his TGR Foundation, set up in 1996 to improve the health, education and welfare of children.
His own golfing career started in humble fashion. He recounted tales of searching for golf balls to be able to practice, and of putting for quarters and dollars, which he said, with a smile, that his late father Earl frowned upon.
Woods encountered racism when going to junior tournaments. “I was not allowed into the clubhouses. The colour of my skin dictated that,” he said.
“I had to change my shoes in the car. As I got older that drove me even more.”
The tears came when he talked about his parents taking out a second mortgage to fund his golf when he was 14 and the fact he was able to pay that off when he signed his first sponsorship deals and won his first prize money.
He said he would not have become the player he did “without the sacrifices of mom and dad, who instilled in me this work ethic to fight for what I believe in, to chase after my dreams”.
In 1997 he became the first black player to win a major with his 12-shot victory at the Masters and between 1999-2002 he won a remarkable seven out of 11, including a run of four across two years, dubbed the ‘Tiger Slam’.
His “darkest times” included the breakdown of his marriage to Elin Nordegren after he admitted in December 2009 to having had numerous affairs.
He also had several operations on knee and back injuries, returning to end a five-year drought by winning the 2018 Tour Championship.
Sensationally, he then won his first major in 11 years, collecting his fifth Green Jacket at the 2019 Masters.
He hugged Sam and his son Charlie after that victory at Augusta National, just as he had done with his parents 22 years earlier.
“This is why you deserve this, because you’re a fighter,” Sam had said in her earlier speech.
She called his car crash one of his “ultimate lows” and one of the scariest moments of their family’s life.
“Now you are here standing on your own two feet,” adding “through thick and thin” their family will always be a team.
The ceremony, which took place at the PGA Tour’s new headquarters in Florida on the eve of its flagship Players Championship, also saw three other people inducted into the Hall of Fame to take the total number to 164.
Former PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, four-time women’s major winner Susie Maxwell Berning and the late golf course developer Marion Hollins, who founded Cypress Hill in California, were also recognised for their golfing achievements.