Obama’s Short Game Impresses Tiger Woods in Florida Golf Round

South African Olympic Sprinter Oscar Pistorius
South African Olympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius appears at the Magistrate Court in Pretoria on Wednesday. Photographer: Stephane de Sakutin/AFP via Getty Images

Tiger Woods said U.S. President Barack Obama is a “pretty good” athlete with a good touch around the greens, skills that helped the duo win their first match together.

Woods and Obama paired for the first time during the President’s Day holiday two days ago at the Floridian, a private golf course and club in Palm City, Florida.

The 14-time major tournament winner said he and Obama teamed up to defeat a two-man team of Jim Crane, who owns the course as well as the Houston Astros baseball team, and U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk.

“Playing with Mr. President was pretty cool,” Woods told reporters yesterday in Marana, Arizona, site of the U.S. PGA Tour’s Match Play Championship. “He’s just a wonderful person to be around. We won.”

Woods didn’t say what the pair shot or what, if anything, they won.

Woods, who previously played a round of golf with former U.S. President Bill Clinton, said the invitation to play with Obama was one he couldn’t refuse.

“He calls up and says, ’Hey Tiger you want to play?’” Woods said. “Obviously, there is a process that’s involved, and I was invited to play, and it was an invitation that certainly you don’t turn down. He’s an avid golfer, and so am I. So we went out there and we had just a great round of golf. It was a good day.”

The group also included Anthony Chase, former deputy chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas; Milton Carroll, chairman of Centerpoint Energy Inc.; Eric Whitaker; a friend of Obama from Chicago; and presidential aide Marvin Nicholson, according to White House spokesman Josh Earnest.

Presidential Golf

Golf getaways are part of presidential tradition. Dwight Eisenhower, the 34th U.S. president, was such an avid golfer that he had a putting green installed on the White House lawn and was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame. Former President George H.W. Bush is in the hall as well. Obama, 51, paid for his own expenses, including green fees, lodging and food, Earnest said. Taxpayers pay for presidents’ travel and that of his entourage of staff and Secret Service personnel.

Woods, 37, said he was impressed with Obama’s golf skills.

“He’s a pretty good athlete, and we all know he played a lot of hoops,” Woods said. “To see him out there hitting shots -- he hit it well, and we didn’t play under the easiest conditions.”

The round was played in cold temperatures for Florida and gusting winds, making for “some tough conditions,” said Woods, the No. 2 player in the Official World Golf Ranking.

“He’s got amazing touch,” Woods said. “He can certainly chip and putt. After these four years, if he spent more time playing the game of golf, I’m sure he could get to where he’s a pretty good stick.”

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