News of the passing of Arnold Palmer, at the age of 87 on Sunday and on the eve of Ryder Cup week, hit the golf world hard. Though his health had clearly been failing, the death of The King, who was beloved by kings and presidents, caddies and fans, jolted and saddened folks from Tiger Woods to Jack Nicklaus and Annika Sorenstam.
"We all, who been around Palmer in recent months, were preparing for this day and now that it’s here, it’s still numbing," Golf Channel’s Tim Rosaforte said. "It’s a shock, to tell you the truth, because in many respects it’s a man who you thought he would live forever. ... It’s the saddest day in golf history."
Certainly, Palmer had an enormous effect on Woods, who not only won eight of his 79 PGA Tour events at Bay Hill, but took the popularity of golf to the next level after Arnold and Nicklaus laid the foundation.
Thanks Arnold for your friendship, counsel and a lot of laughs. Your philanthropy and humility are part of your legend.— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) September 26, 2016
(2/2) It’s hard to imagine golf without you or anyone more important to the game than the King.— Tiger Woods (@TigerWoods) September 26, 2016
Nicklaus, whose longtime rivalry with Palmer put golf on the sports map, expressed his grief and shock at the loss of "one of my best friends, closest friends [who] was the king of our sport and always will be."
LPGA Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam shed tears for all of us when she recalled Palmer’s charity work for the Winnie Palmer Hospital for Women & Babies, whose medical professionals helped her through a difficult pregnancy.
Palmer touched every generation of PGA and LPGA Tour players.
Rory McIlroy cut short his celebration after winning the Tour Championship and the FedEx Cup to remember the legendary icon.
"What he’s been able to do for the game, for players, I think everyone realizes that and respects that," McIlroy told Golf Channel on Sunday night. "I think that’s why you see so many guys go to play Bay Hill every year, because they want to pay their respects to the man that paved the way for us to be professional golfers, and to be as privileged and as successful as we are."
I'm heart broken tonight. Arnold Palmer defined what it is be a professional inside and outside the ropes. All of golf says 'thanks Arnold'— Peter Jacobsen (@JakeTrout) September 26, 2016
RIP #arnoldpalmer. You changed the game with your charisma and personality. Every player, me included, should thank you for what you brought to our great game. You had this incredible ability to open the eyes of the world to the beauty of golf. You played with Presidents, celebrities and CEO's. In doing so you opened the game to commercialization. For that I thank you. Our sport will always remember you. I will miss you.
Very sad to hear the passing of Mr. Palmer... Rest In Peace to the forever role model, legend and The King! He will be missed #RIPTheKing— Lydia Ko (@LydiaKo) September 26, 2016
Mr. Palmer was truly one of golf's greatest icons. His legacy will live on. #RIPTheKing— Dustin Johnson (@DJohnsonPGA) September 26, 2016
This week, when the U.S. does golf battle with the Europeans at Hazeltine, the memory of Arnold Palmer will be front and center, promised PGA of America chief executive Pete Bevacqua.
"It’s a fierce competition but its bigger than that," Bevacqua told Golf Channel. "We’ll remember him, we’ll honor him this week, and we’ll make sure that Mr. Palmer is a huge part of this 41st Ryder Cup."
But Palmer’s passing will likely have the greatest effect in April, when the golf community gathers at Augusta National for the Masters, where the popular 1958 winner spawned "Arnie’s Army."
"Arnold’s bold and daring approach to the game, combined with his citizenship, warmth, humor, humility, and grace, were truly the signature of the man that we came to know, and will fondly remember, as The King," Augusta National chair Billy Payne said in a statement. "His presence at Augusta National will be sorely missed, but his impact on the Masters remains immeasurable -- and it will never wane."