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Published: 08:35 | 26/9/16

Arnold Palmer passes away aged 87

Tributes pour in for The King

Golf legend Arnold Palmer has passed away at the age of 87.

Considered one of the greatest players in the sport's history, Palmer won more than 90 tournaments worldwide, including seven majors, and earned the nickname 'The King' with his easy going attitude attracted millions of loyal fans, who became known as 'Arnie's Army'.

Palmer died at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with the United States Golf Association confirming his death on Sunday evening.

"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."

Born in 1929, Palmer won the Masters in 1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964 while he also won the Open Championship twice and the US Open in 1960. The career grand slam eluded him, however, as he failed to add the US PGA Championship to his record.

He has also been credited with reviving the fortunes of the Open at a time when American professionals were reluctant to make the trip to Britain due to the low prize money on offer and the cost and time involved in making the long trip across the Atlantic.

Having made his 50th and final appearance at the Masters in 2004, Palmer became an honoray starter at Augusta National in 2007 and he was later joined by his big rivals Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

He was too frail to hit the ceremonial tee-shot at this year's Masters but he was present to watch Nicklaus and Player officially open the tournament.

Nicklaus has led the tributes to his friend, saying: "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.

"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."

Player added: "He endeared himself to the people. He had charisma. He just fell out of bed with it.

Tiger Woods tweeted: "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."

News of Palmer's passing was announced just hours after Rory McIlroy's victory at the Tour Championship.

McIlroy posted a picture of himself and Palmer on Twitter with the caption: "Remembering the special times I spent with Mr Palmer at Bay Hill. A true pioneer for our sport. Forever remembered.

The Northern Irishman added: "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.

"A lot of us knew Arnie hadn't been doing well for a long time. He was such a great man. He put on a great face for probably quite a while. I know that he was suffering for a little bit.

"He meant a lot to a lot of people. The world and the game of golf won't be quite the same without him."

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said: “We have lost a great friend and giant in our sport tonight with the passing of Arnold Palmer. There is no way to adequately express the immense sense of loss that we all feel with this news. He obviously meant so much not only to the PGA Tour, but to the entirety of golf by lifting it to newfound visibility and popularity.

"It is not an exaggeration to say there would be no modern day PGA TOUR without Arnold Palmer. There would be no PGA Tour Champions without Arnold Palmer. There would be no Golf Channel without Arnold Palmer. No one has had a greater impact on those who play our great sport or who are touched by it.

"It has been said many times over in so many ways, but beyond his immense talent, Arnold transcended our sport with an extraordinarily appealing personality and genuineness that connected with millions, truly making him a champion of the people. The fact that his popularity never waned more than a quarter century after his last competitive victory speaks volumes to the man, the icon and the legendary figure he was.

"More than his words, Arnold’s actions spoke to his unequivocal love of golf and belief that no individual can be or should be bigger than the game. Arnold totally gave of himself to support golf and its growth. He has served as a role model for generations of PGA Tour members in ways large and small. The game, and all of us involved with it are so much richer for having had the fortune to have Arnold willingly serve as its global champion and ambassador.

"Beyond being an invaluable friend of the TOUR who generously gave of his time, opinion and support, Arnold was a wonderful personal friend and was someone who was always there for me with advice, support and guidance. We will all miss him so.”

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