Arnold Palmer, one of the golf’s greatest and most popular players, has died at the age of 87.
Palmer, affectionately known as 'The King', passed away in hospital, near his hometown of Latrobe, Pennsylvania, where he was reportedly undergoing heart tests.
“Today marks the passing of an era,” Alastair Johnston, his long-time agent, said in a statement.
“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.”
Palmer’s swashbuckling style and charisma drew a legion of fans, known as Arnie’s Army, and his immense popularity has been widely credited with bringing golf to mass TV audiences.
He also became a trailblazer in the early sixties after convincing fellow Americans to join him by travelling overseas to compete in the Open Championship.
In total, the American accumulated 62 victories on the PGA Tour, including seven Major titles. He notched 93 wins worldwide and formed part of golf’s fabled ‘Big Three’, alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.
In a statement, Nicklaus said: “He was one of my best friends, closest friends, and he was for a long, long time. I will miss him greatly.
“Arnold transcended the game of golf. He was more than a golfer or even great golfer. He was an icon. He was a legend. Arnold was someone who was a pioneer in his sport. He took the game from one level to a higher level, virtually by himself.
“Along the way, he had millions of adoring fans...we were great competitors, who loved competing against each other, but we were always great friends along the way...he was the king of our sport and always will be.”
Tiger Woods also took to Twitter to pay his respect to the four-time Masters champion. “Thanks Arnold for your friendship, counsel and a lot of laughs. Your philanthropy and humility are part of your legend. It’s hard to imagine golf without you or anyone more important to the game than the King.”
Rory McIlroy echoed similar sentiments after winning the Tour Championship and FedExCup on Sunday night. “He has meant so much to golf worldwide.
“Arnold wasn't the most successful player ever but he was the player that brought the game to the masses. If it wasn't for Arnold Palmer, we wouldn't be playing for these obscene amounts of money we play for every week.”
Martin Slumbers, Chief Executive of The R&A, also paid a glowing tribute: “It is with great sadness that we have awoken to hear the news of Arnold Palmer's passing. He was a true gentleman, one of the greatest ever to play the game, and a truly iconic figure in sport.
“His contribution to The Open Championship was, and remains, immeasurable. He will be missed and forever remembered by all at The R&A and throughout the world of golf as a charismatic and global champion of our game.”
Tributes have poured in outside the golf world too, with US President Barack Obama tweeting a picture of himself with Arnold Palmer at the White House, captioning: “Here's to The King who was as extraordinary on the links as he was generous to others. Thanks for the memories, Arnold.”