(CNN) -- Tiger Woods said he had been inspired by Nelson Mandela as he paid his own tribute to the former South African president.
Woods met Mandela for the first time back in 1998 after winning the U.S. Masters, the first of his 14 major titles, and admitted it had been a life changing experience.
"It's sad for everyone who got a chance to not only meet him, but I've been influenced by him," Woods said. "I got a chance to meet him with my father (Earl) back in '98.
"He invited us to his home for lunch, and it was one of the most inspiring times I've ever had in my life. "
The world No.1 reacted to news of Mandela's death after completing his first round at the World Golf Challenge in California on Thursday.
Woods, who went on to meet Mandela on several occasions, praised his courage in the face of adversity -- imprisoned by the South African regime for 28 years until released in 1990.
"I don't think any of us probably could have survived that and come out as humble and dignified as he did, and to lead an entire nation and to basically love the world when he came out," he told his official website.
"I think that's a testament to his will and his spirit and who he was.
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," he added.
South African legend Gary Player, who hosted the Nelson Mandela Invitational tournament from 2000 to 2006, also mourned his loss.
"Condolences to all on the passing of our beloved Father of the South African Nation, Nelson Mandela," Player tweeted.
"Nelson Mandela's courage, forgiveness, love & hope inspired people around the world. He made me want to be a better man. Madiba we loved you. Rest in Peace."
Former world No.1 Greg Norman also reacted to the sad news on social media. "My thoughts & prayers go out to Pres Nelson Mandela's family on his passing today. One of the greatest humans I ever had privilege to meet."
England's Ian Poulter added: "Just heard that Nelson Mandela has passed away. Really sad news. Madiba May you rest in peace. What an inspirational man."
Poulter, like Woods, is in the 18-strong field for the PGA sanctioned tournament at Sherwood Oaks.
He struggled to a four-over 76 to trail leader Zach Johnson by nine shots. Woods shot a 71, with defending champion Graeme McDowell on 72, one shot better than Rory McIlroy, who claimed last week's Australian Open title.