Former world No1 Tiger Woods led the tributes to Arnold Palmer on Monday after one of golf’s most popular, successful and influential figures died aged 87.
Palmer, who won seven Major championships and became one of the faces of the sport’s burgeoning popularity during the 1960s, passed away in a Pittsburgh hospital where he was undergoing heart tests.
“Thanks Arnold for your friendship, counsel and a lot of laughs,” Woods, an eight-time winner of Palmer’s eponymous invitational tournament in Florida, wrote on social media.
“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.”
Palmer’s two main rivals, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, paid tribute to his universal appeal and humanity.
“Arnold was more than a golfer or even great golfer; he was an icon,” said Nicklaus, winner of a record 18 Majors.
“He was a pioneer in his sport. He took the game from one level to a higher level, virtually by himself. He was the king of our sport and always will be.”
Player said: “We’ve got to rejoice; he had a wonderful life. He was probably the most patient athlete with people. They loved him and he loved them.”
Palmer won 95 professional tournaments, including consecutive Open Championships, and enjoyed unprecedented commercial success for a golfer with a series of off-field ventures.
The American’s company designed more than 300 courses worldwide, became the first client in IMG founder Mark McCormack’s sports marketing empire and had a drink – consisting of three parts iced tea and one part lemonade – named after him.