Nicklaus leads tributes to golfing great Arnold Palmer
GOLF: Friend and rival Jack Nicklaus has led the tributes for golfing great Arnold Palmer, who has died aged 87.
In an emotional tribute on Twitter, Nicklaus, who along with Gary Player and Palmer dominated the game during the 1960s, said he was in shock at the death of his friend and said the game had lost "an icon”.
He said Palmer had always been a fighter and never gave up on anything, even when he died.
"Maybe his body did, but I know Arnold's will and spirit did not,” he tweeted.
"I wish I had another chance to talk to him but I am so glad we talked a couple weeks ago on his birthday (September 10), when he sounded great ... He was one of my best friends, closest friends, and he was for a long, long time. I will miss him greatly.”
Palmer, who won seven major golfing titles between 1958 and 1964, was credited with taking the game of golf to the masses, especially in the early days of sport on television.
He had his own band of followers, affectionately know as Arnie's Army, and Nicklaus said he was more than just a golfer.
"Arnold transcended the game of golf,” Nicklaus wrote in his Twitter tribute.
"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 - Barbara and I among them.
"We were great competitors against each other but we were always great friends along the way.
"Arnold always had my back and I had his.
"We were always there for each other. That never changed.”
Golfers from all generations also took to social media to pay tribute to Palmer.
Ernie Els, Greg Norman, Ian Baker-Finch, Rickie Fowler and Graeme McDowell were among those to have their say on the man nicknamed "The King”.
Tiger Woods tweeted: "Thanks Arnold for your friendship, counsel and a lot of laughs. Your philanthropy and humility are part of your legend.”
Palmer won the Masters four times (1958, 1960, 1962 and 1964), the British Open twice (1961 and 1962) and the US Open once (1960).
He never won golf's fourth major, the PGA Championships, where he finished runner-up on three occasions.
His grip-it-and-rip-it style was copied by many but none had the same charisma as Palmer.
His rivalry with Nicklaus and Player helped the trio to become household names across the world.
Along with the others in "the big three”, as they became known, Palmer became one of golf's television superstars, helping take the game into the mainstream and paving the way for broadcast rights and big paydays for the many golfers who followed on the PGA and European Tours.
The USGA also paid tribute to Palmer, tweeting: "We are deeply saddened by the death of Arnold Palmer, golf's greatest ambassador, at age 87.”
Palmer died in his home state of Pittsburgh at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital.
No cause of death was immediately given but he had been in hospital undergoing tests on his heart.
Born: Latrobe, Pennsylvania, September 10, 1929
PGA wins: 62
Major wins: 7 (US Masters 1958, 1960, 1962, 1964, US Open 1960, British Open 1961, 1962)