President Obama played golf Sunday with Tiger Woods during the president’s long holiday weekend in Florida, amid concerns from the media about a lack of access before, during and after the newsworthy outing.
The foursome at the Floridian National Golf Club, in Palm City, Fla., included U.S. trade representative Ron Kirk and Jim Crane, a Democratic donor who owns the club and the Houston Astros baseball team.
The White House has prohibited media coverage of Obama’s weekend golf outing, prompting Fox News’ Ed Henry, who is the president of the White House Correspondents Association, to issue a statement saying, “a broad cross section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the President of the United States this entire weekend.”
The White House responded by saying the press access granted Sunday was “entirely consistent with the press access offered for previous presidential golf outings.”
But Henry maintains, “there is a very simple but important principle we will continue to fight for today and in the days ahead: transparency.”
On Saturday, Woods’ former coach, Butch Harmon, rode along with the Obama foursome for a few holes and gave the president some golf tips.
Golf Digest reported that Obama spent eight hours with Harmon, during which he played 27 holes and hit balls in Harmon’s studio, and then managed to coordinate Sunday’s round with Woods. The report said the original plan called for Obama and Woods to play at Woods’ home club — The Medalist Golf Club, a half-hour away in Hobe Sound — but they eventually opted for the Floridian.
Woods departed after the first 18 holes, but Obama stayed on to play another nine, the report said.
“Just to see the interaction between the two on the range was pretty neat,” Harmon told Golf Digest. “The President said to Tiger: `The last tournament you played was fun to watch. It’s good to see you play well again.’ You could tell he meant it. It just wasn’t a throw it out compliment.”
It seems Obama and Woods — the first black men at the top of their respective fields — have spent the past few years inching toward Sunday’s meeting on the fairway.
The two met in January 2009, during Obama’s inauguration in Washington. Four months later, in April, Woods visited the White House and Obama welcomed him into the Oval Office.
Woods’ personal life imploded later in 2009 after revelations that he had engaged in multiple extramarital affairs, leading to divorce. He followed with a public apology and announced he was taking an indefinite break from golf. Shortly after Woods announced he was coming out of seclusion, Obama said in an interview with Fox News Channel that Woods will still be a “terrific” golfer despite his personal issues.
After returning to the sport, Woods went two years without winning, but his game is back on track and he currently is ranked No. 2 in the world. Woods won the last tournament he played, three weeks ago in San Diego.
The president is in Florida while first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha are on an annual skiing vacation out West. He arrived late Friday and was due to return to Washington on Monday night.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.