King of the fairways bids adieu

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Published on Sep 27, 2016 09:30 AM IST
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ByAgence France-Presse

WASHINGTON: Arnold Palmer, the golf great whose charisma and common touch drew a legion of fans known as ‘Arnie’s Army’ and propelled the game into the mainstream, died on Sunday at the age of 87.

Palmer’s longtime assistant Doc Griffin confirmed the player known as ‘The King’ had died at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Presbyterian Hospital.

No cause of death was immediately given, although the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported he had undergone cardiac tests.

“We just lost one of the incredible people in the game of golf and in all of sports,” 18-time major champion Jack Nicklaus said.

“He has always been a fighter and he never gave up on anything. He didn’t give up even now. Maybe his body did, but I know Arnold’s will and spirit did not.”

Palmer captured seven major tournaments during his illustrious career, taking The Masters four times (in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964), the British Open twice (in 1961 and 1962) and the US Open once (in 1960).

His go-for-broke style, raw athleticism and unorthodox swing enthralled fans, and he became one of golf’s first television superstars, helping make the sport accessible to a much wider audience.

His rise – along with that of Nicklaus and Gary Player – set the stage for the sport’s huge broadcast rights fees and prize money riches, which were later enhanced by the success of Tiger Woods.

“Thanks Arnold for your friendship, counsel and a lot of laughs,” Woods said on Twitter. “It’s hard to imagine golf without you or anyone more important to the game than the King.”

Palmer looked frail when he joined fellow icons Player and Nicklaus for the ceremonial first tee shot at the Masters in April.

For the first time in 10 years, he didn’t swing a club, instead sitting in a chair to watch the spectacle.

Although Palmer’s presence around the game had become less regular in recent years, today’s young stars were aware of the iconic player’s impact. “Let’s be honest, it’s kind of a nerdy sport,” Australia’s Jason Day said this year. “Arnold Palmer made golf sexy.”

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