LEGENDARY golfer Arnold Palmer has died in a Pittsburgh hospital in at the age of 87, prompting an outpouring of tributes from the world’s best golfers and biggest celebrities.

The seven-time Major champion – who was renowned with bringing golf to the masses and popularising the ‘country club sport’ during the television age of the 1950s – died at the UPMC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he had been undergoing heart tests, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

Palmer is remembered as The King – the first of golf’s superstars, loved for his humble upbringing in LaTrobe, Pennsylvania, a swashbuckling style of attacking golf and a swing that was likened to someone trying to hit the cover off the golf ball. His status was furthered by a legendary friendship and rivalry with two of history’s best golfers – South African Gary Player and American Jack Nicklaus – with the trio making many tournaments and television exhibitions a global sporting spectacle. Palmer also had a soft drink named after him, which is part lemonade, part iced tea.

Palmer was one of the original 13 inductees into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 1974 and amassed 95 professional victories during a glittered career that saw him claim seven of golf’s Majors between 1958 and 1964. He was most prolific at The Masters, where he donned four green jackets, in addition to winning a US Open and two British Opens. Palmer did not complete the career grand slam, but did finish runner up at the US PGA Championship in 1964, 1968 and 1970.

Along with 62 wins on the US PGA Tour (fifth most of all time), Palmer is credited with creating the concept of golf having four Major trophies when he travelled to the UK to try and win the 1960 Open Championship after taking out The Masters and US Open that year. However, he lost that British Open to Australia’s Kel Nagle, but the idea of the grand slam was born. He returned the following two years to lift the next two Claret Jugs.

Palmer is survived by his second wife, Kit, daughters Amy Saunders and Peggy Wears, six grandchildren, including Sam Saunders, who plays on the US PGA Tour, and nine great grandchildren.

Five-time Open Championship winner and legendary Australian golfer Peter Thomson released this statement on Palmer via Golf Australia Organisation:

“Arnold was the folk hero of golf. Not only was he the greatest personality the game has produced, he was King of the fairways every time he played.We were only two weeks apart in age and great rivals.  We certainly had some wonderful times together. The last time we played was an exhibition at The Australian Golf Club in Sydney on November 24, 2004.  The occasion was the centenary of the Australian Open and Bruce Devlin joined us for the nine-hole match on the eve of the tournament.At last year’s Open Championship at St Andrews, we were rival captains in the four-hole Past Champions event and, although our team scores were the same, Arnold’s team won the charity donation by being the older team of the two. St Andrews was a fitting final place for us both to meet. Mary and I are terribly saddened by the news of his death, and our thoughts are very much with Kit, and his daughters and their families.

Bless you always, Arnold.”

Tributes have also flowed for The King on social media: