Athletes we've lost
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Story highlights

Arnold Palmer died aged 87

Barack Obama and Rory McIlroy lead tributes

CNN —  

Barack Obama and Tiger Woods led the tributes to legendary golfer Arnold Palmer, who died Sunday aged 87.

Palmer, also known as “The King,” is credited with making golf more available to the masses, thanks to the ever-expanding popularity of television and his dominance on the course.

Much as Palmer was credited with changing golf off the course, attracting huge sponsorship deals and prize money, Tiger Woods was credited with changing it on the course.

Read: How Arnold Palmer transformed golf into a sport for the masses

The 14-time major champion said “it’s hard to imagine anyone more important to the game than the King.”

President Obama, who was fortunate enough to receive a personal putting lesson from Palmer in the Oval Office, remembered him as an “extraordinary” and “generous” man.

Such was Palmer’s influence and reach, it wasn’t just golfers he had a profound effect on.

Read: Golfing great Arnold Palmer dead at 87

Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, said his “heart aches” for the Palmer family.

All-time major record holder and long-time rival Jack Nicklaus added: “Arnold transcended golf. He was more than a golfer or even a great golfer. He was an icon.

“Arnold had my back and I had his. I will miss him greatly.”

Just hours after clinching his $11.5 million FedEx cup prize, Rory McIlroy paid tribute to the man he called “a true pioneer” of golf.

“If it wasn’t for Arnold Palmer, we wouldn’t be playing for these obscene amounts of money we play for every week,” McIlroy told The Golf Channel.

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump took time out of campaigning to tweet his sadness at the passing of “a true champion.”

Golfer Rickie Fowler said: “Legends never die, you will live on forever Arnie.”

Lindsey Vonn, one of the most successful skiers of all time, remembered a man whose “smile brightened every room.”

Palmer will be remembered at this week’s Ryder Cup, where Team USA will be looking to stop a run of three successive defeats to its European counterparts.