Golf Digest editors picks

Swing Sequence: Arnold Palmer

July 1996

View his swing in motion: Target-line | Face-on

Arnold Palmer
Golf Instruction / Swing Sequence

Full name: Arnold Daniel Palmer
Born: September 10, 1929
Birthplace: Latrobe, PA
Height, weight: 5-foot-10, 185 lbs.
Turned professional: 1954

Arnold Palmer's achievements in golf are many. He recruited an army of fans to the game and popularized it as never before. He paved the way for today's tour millionaires, whose bank accounts have benefited immensely from corporate sponsorship and endorsements. By doing nothing more than turning 50, he brought incredible success and growth to the senior tour, in much the same way he did the regular tour. Outside the golf world, his Q-rating is one of the highest of any celebrity.

On the course, Palmer gave legitimacy to the bomber. In the years before Palmer became the King, golf was dominated by such stylists as Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Byron Nelson, whose games were smooth, refined and precise. Palmer changed all that. His hard-hitting, hitch-up-your-pants, in-your-face golf ushered in the modern game and all it represented: power.

Palmer's swing and game provided high drama, both glorious and tragic. The high point -- Palmer's defining moment -- was a single shot to begin the final round of the 1960 U.S. Open at Cherry Hills. Standing on the first tee, he let loose a blast that finally came to rest on the green -- 346 yards away. The drive ignited a final-round 65 and a seven-shot comeback victory that galvanized his already considerable popularity.

The low, undoubtedly, was the 1966 U.S. Open at Olympic, where Palmer lost a seven-shot lead over the last nine holes to fall into a tie with Billy Casper. After leading the subsequent 18-hole playoff at the turn, Palmer lost the lead yet again, and along with it, the title.

Better than anything else, those two incidents personify the man whose aggressive play, heroic presence and infinite charisma changed the face of golf.

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