Tiger Woods and Tour players around the world honor Nelson Mandela
By Stephanie Wei under RIP
Woods meets Mandela for the first time in '98

Woods meets Mandela for the first time in ’98

The world is mourning the death of the beloved former South African President Nelson Mandela. Even Tiger Woods, who hasn’t been thrilled with Golf Channel as of late, gave a post-round TV interview to pay tribute to Mandela following the first round of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge, the tournament he hosts that also benefits his foundation (but denied GC’s request after he shot 62 to take the second-round lead on Friday).

“Well, it’s sad,” Woods said via Golf Channel when asked for his reaction to Mandela’s passing. “It’s sad for everyone who got a chance to not only meet him, but I’ve been influenced by him.  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 inspiring times I’ve ever had in my life.  It’s a sad day for many people around the world.”

Woods elaborated when he spoke with the press scrum:

Q.  As you’ve probably just been made aware, Nelson Mandela passed away today.  Talk about the impact he had on you and your thoughts about him. 

TIGER WOODS:  Yeah, as I was describing over there, I got a chance to meet with him back in ’98 with my father at his home and had a great lunch together.  You’ve heard me tell the story many times.  I’m not going to bore you with it again.  But he certainly had an impact on my life and certainly my father, and I think that time frame in which‑‑ when he came out, 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.

Q.  Can you imagine 27 years in prison to not have any hatred in your heart, not wanting to get revenge for those who unjustly imprisoned you?  Obviously it takes some sort of a special person. 

TIGER WOODS:  Well, I don’t think any of us probably here could have survived that and come out as humble and as dignified as he did, 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.

Other players around the globe — either playing at the Hong Kong Open or the Nedbank Golf Challenge in Sun City, South Africa — also honored the esteemed activist and Nobel laureate. Here’s a collection of their reactions:

Gary Player, who kissed Mandela’s feet the first time he met him, spoke from the Nedbank: “It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of our beloved Madiba, President Nelson Mandela “Nelson Mandela is one of the great heroes in my life and I believe he did more for our country than any other person in our history.

“As a proud South African, I am certain Mandela’s legacy will endure in our nation and across the world as a figure of courage, value, spirit, and above all else, love. I commend him for all that he did over his 95 years. He was a courageous leader who fought for all that is right, and he possessed an aura that inspired people, and our nation, to change for the better.

“When I was a young man, I stated that Madiba should be released from prison, where he spent twenty-seven years. I was labelled a traitor, yet paid no mind. Time would prove that decision right. Moreover, time would prove how truly special he was after emerging from prison with no hatred or revenge. He was never broken, just empowered.

“Our nation enters into a time of mourning, but also a celebration of his great life and the spirit he instilled in our nation.May we all lovingly remember our truly remarkable former President and the father of our nation. Thank you, Madiba.

“My thoughts and prayers are with the Mandela family.”

More from Player: “Well, we played this morning and the first thing we did on the tee was to have a prayer for Madiba,” the Black Knight commented. “When you think of the adversity that he faced up in this life and how he accepted it. He was a man that had no revenge, which, to me, militancy never achieves anything.

“I will never forget – we were playing at Pecanwood and it was my job to greet all our overseas guests. I had to meet him when the helicopter arrived and open the door. Now I had been around him all these years raising money for young black children and I opened the door, and he says: “Good morning Gary, do you remember me?” Just wonderful.

“It is a very, very sad day today. It was interesting, all four of us on the tee saying a little prayer, we all had a tear in our eyes, but it is also a day of celebration. He wants us to celebrate and we have got to celebrate for what he actually gave this country. I mean if it was not for him there would have been enormous bloodshed, and also he is an example for all leaders to follow in the future.”

Ernie Els, who is playing in South Africa, where the flags flew at half-mast: “It is a very sad day. A very sad day for South Africa and the world really. We have lost one of the iconic leaders of our time. You cannot say anything bad about the man. He fought for what he believed in, went to prison for so many years and came out to lead our country up until now.

“He was the father of our country and our continent. It’s just very sad that he had to go. He was 95 and led a full life but a lot of that wasn’t spent on what he was so good at because he was away for so many years.

He always felt proud of what the sporting athletes out of South Africa did for the country, you know, winning worldwide events. He always felt very proud of that. When I won a lot of tournaments in the ’90s and early part of the 2000s we spoke a lot on the telephone.

“Through that instance we had a really nice relationship. I haven’t seen him for probably seven or eight years now. But we’ve always had a great relationship.”

Louis Oosthuizen: “We’ve been expecting it, but it doesn’t make it any easier. The country is definitely going to mourn him, and it will always miss him. But there were those in South African golf who chose to see it as a day for celebrating a glorious life.”

Brendan Grace: “It’s a sad, sad day, not only for us (South Africans), but also for the whole world. He was a true inspiration. He was one of the people I would truly have loved to have met.

Richard Sterne: “We’ve lost our biggest hero. He went through so much, so in a way, it’s good that he’s at peace now.”

Jbe Kruger, who wore black ribbons on his chest and arm while firing a four-under 66 to take the second-round lead in Hong Kong: “Our country has lost a real-life hero and wearing this (black ribbon) is a real honor for me.

“I don’t think our country will ever have another leader like Mandela. He has been sick and in hospital for a long time yet it was sad when I heard this morning of his passing away. Unfortunately I never met him but I know his death will affect everyone, white and black, in my country.”

Now, tributes from players via Twitter:






 (Cobus Bodenstein/AP file)