Photo: Arnold Palmer alongside the famous Royal Birkdale plaque
US golf legend Arnold Palmer dies at 87
US golfer Arnold Palmer, viewed as one of the greatest players in the sport’s history, has died at the age of 87.
Palmer died at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he was undergoing heart tests, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.
The United States Golf Association also confirmed his death in a tweet calling him “golf’s greatest ambassador”.
During a long career he won more than 90 tournaments worldwide, including seven majors.
Arnold Palmer was the most important golfer to play the game, says the BBC’s golf correspondent Iain Carter.
“His force of charisma put the game on the map and it never dimmed”, he added.
Obituary: Arnold Palmer
Fellow golfing great and a close friend of Palmer, Jack Nicklaus said he would “miss him greatly”.
“We just lost one of the incredible people in the game of golf and in all of sports,” he tweeted.
“Arnold transcended the game of golf. He was more than a golfer or even great golfer. He was an icon. He was a legend.”
Palmer attracted thousands of diehard fans known as “Arnie’s Army” and helped to promote the game into the television age.
“Today marks the passing of an era,” said Alastair Johnston, CEO of Arnold Palmer Enterprises.
“Arnold Palmer’s influence, profile and achievements spread far beyond the game of golf. He was an iconic American who treated people with respect and warmth, and built a unique legacy through his ability to engage with fans.”
Tributes to the sporting star flooded in from the world of golf.
“Thanks Arnold for your friendship, counsel and a lot of laughs. Your philanthropy and humility are part of your legend,” Tiger Woods tweeted.
“Remembering the special times I spent with Mr Palmer at Bay Hill. A true pioneer for our sport. Forever remembered,” said Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, hours after winning the Tour Championship in Atlanta.
“My heart aches with passing of the King. What he did for golf cannot be measured. Athlete, pioneer, philanthropist, family man, and much more…RIP Arnie,” tweetedUS golfer Zach Johnson.
Tributes also came in from outside the golf world.
US President Barack Obama tweeted a picture of himself with Arnold Palmer at the White House, adding: “Here’s to The King who was as extraordinary on the links as he was generous to others. Thanks for the memories, Arnold.”
Palmer was born in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, in 1929, the son of a groundskeeper at the local country club who later became the professional at the golf club there.
He was one of golf’s most dominant players in the late 1950s and early 1960s, winning seven major titles over seven seasons.
He also notched up 62 PGA Tour wins.
The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale – 1961
In 1961 came Arnold Palmer, and with him undoubtedly the renaissance of the Championship as a truly international event – which is not to detract from Thomson’s dominance of his contemporaries. Few will argue that the stature of the modern Open had its roots in the charisma and media exposure, two decades and more ego, of the trio they called the Big Three – Palmer, Player and Nicklaus. Player had won at Muirfield in 1959, and Palmer, who had failed by a shot to catch Thomson’s compatriot Kel Nagle at St. Andrews in the Centenary Open of 1960, now pitched his camp at Southport. It was an Open plagued by appalling weather which not only caused devastation to tents and marquees, but stretched quite a few administrative tempers as well. A fierce mixture of gales and storms led to the cancellation of Friday’s last two rounds and an unprecedented announcement by the R & A. The Championship, they said, must end on Saturday whether four rounds had been completed or not.
Despite the weather, the golf was still memorable. Dai Rees jointly led the first round with Harold Henning and Nagle on 68, and he was still with Henning at 142 on a second day when he had the better of the weather and Palmer fired a 73 in the worst of it, with a seven (including a penalty shot) when his ball moved in a bunker. Palmer’s play in the gale in the second round was considered among his finest. This plaque was erected to commemorate an awesome second shot at the 16th.
The third round on Friday morning, following a night of fierce gales, was cancelled and on Saturday morning Rees opened with a disastrous seven in a yet magnificent round of 71. The inexorable Palmer was round in 69, and in the afternoon was three shots to the good with nine to play. Rees covered the last nine holes in 31. He birdied the 15th and 16th, and got down in three at the very last hole where seven years previously he had taken five and had lost to Thomson by a shot. Now he had lost again – to Palmer by a shot – and he was never again to get so close.
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