Until the 1950s, golf remained a rather elitist game, played for relatively modest purses and equally modest media attention. In The Wicked Game: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and the Story of Modern Golf, Howard Sounes provides a rigorously well-written history of how that all changed. Arnold Palmer, says Sounes, is the guy chiefly responsible for golf's high-profile, big-money modern ways, having captured a devoted fan following in the late '50s through dramatic tournament wins and the projection of a common-man personality. Sounes shows how Jack Nicklaus built on Palmer's efforts and includes a detailed account of the life and precocious achievements of Tiger Woods. Fascinating biographical material is mixed with sociocultural analysis of golf's growing pains, in particular the hard-won fight for black golfers to gain access to exclusive events and major money-making opportunities. Sounes also includes solid coverage of the sex-discrimination flap at the 2003 Masters. This is one of the most important sports books in recent seasons.

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