Rosburg, who died earlier this year, went on the record in 1988 about an alleged Palmer extramarital rendezvous that was recounted on Page 96 of the book Wicked Game: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods and the Story of Modern Golf.
If you’ve followed golf closely the past 30 years, that story probably won’t exactly be a stunning revelation. Palmer’s alleged extramarital dalliances have long been rumored, something he addressed in Ian O’Connor’s recent book Arnie & Jack, which examined Palmer’s rivalry with Jack Nicklaus.
Excerpt from Charles McGrath’s NEW YORK TIMES review of O’Connor’s 2008 work:
… he skates lightly over Palmer’s considerable reputation as a ladies’ man, leaving the last words to Arnie himself: “I knew a lot of ladies, but I didn’t, I wasn’t one to. … That was more the talk than it was an action. It was a myth. … I think I knew a lot of people and I was nice to them and that’s how this all got construed as something that was more than what it was.”
My citation of Rosburg’s story isn’t specific to singling Palmer out as a lone wolf in the alleged endeavor of infidelity on the PGA Tour. The Wicked Game author Howard Sounes has more on the record comments in his book from pro golfers about alleged extramarital practices of PGA Tour players over the years. And there are plenty of additional references to the activity elsewhere in print.
But Palmer is perhaps the only pro golfer, including Jack Nicklaus, to have built an endorsement fortune as large as Woods - if not larger. Palmer’s career as a competitive pro concluded almost a half-century ago, yet he’s still a ubiquitous figure promoting companies around the world. In fact, he’s often cited as a pioneer in the field of high-profile celebrity athlete endorsements.
To be clear, there’s never been any material evidence that Palmer had extramarital affairs, but Palmer has never denied Rosburg’s story nor any other accusation, published or otherwise. But as an example to his reputation, check out the automatic suggested search comparison from Google.com when you type a prominent golfer’s name and then the characters “woma”:
Again, in no way evidence that Palmer cheated, but the Google search automatic suggestions could indicate that there’s others who believe that Palmer was a philanderer.
All the more interesting when you consider Palmer’s namesake tournament website’s move to disassociate itself from Woods.