Los Angeles: Some of the game`s younger players need to do more to try to emulate Phil Mickelson when it comes to engaging with the fans, says golfing great Arnold Palmer.
World number two Mickelson, a winner of four major championships, is renowned for the amount of time he spends signing autographs and interacting with the galleries.
In the eyes of many, the left-hander has become the modern-day equivalent of fellow American Palmer, arguably the most charismatic player ever.
"Phil Mickelson has done a great job with the fans and that`s good for the game," Palmer, 80, told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "The fact that he relates to them so well is just fantastic."
"We just need to get more young players who can relate. I think they are starting to get the message but we could improve upon that and they could improve upon that with their relations with the galleries."
Palmer, a seven-times major champion, had no peers as a fan favourite and always went to great lengths to ensure every person waiting in line ended up with a cherished autograph.
With his swashbuckling style, prodigious length off the tee, bold putting and affection for the galleries, he did more than any other player to popularise the game with the advent of television.
"It`s very important to relate to the fans because that will bring people to talk about it and that`s what we always need in the game of golf," Palmer said.
While Palmer felt on-course public relations could be improved in the modern game, he was energised by the number of young guns who had burst on to the world stage in recent months.
"All these young players who are coming along, such as Matt Kuchar, Ryo Ishikawa and Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who is so good at 21 years old," he said.
"It excites me to see the potential that he (McIlroy) has and what could happen. I am watching a lot of these young players. It`s fun and it`s something that can create great relationships between our nations on the international scene."
McIlroy won his first PGA Tour title at the Quail Hollow Championship in May after closing with a course record 10-under-par 62 and has been widely tipped by his peers as a future world number one. He is currently ranked seventh.
Palmer, who was a member of the so-called Big Three with fellow golfing greats Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player, had no doubt about the one thing he would like to change most in the modern game.
"Because of technology, the players of today hit it too far," Palmer said. "That should be one of the major things on our agenda, to slow the golf ball down so that we don`t tilt the scale."
"We have so many great golf courses but, as the players start hitting it so far, they are outdating our golf courses. We need to see if we can`t just keep it in the range that we have known it for so many years."
Palmer also spoke to Reuters about his latest role with Centocor Ortho Biotech Inc. and the non-profit organisation Us TOO International to help raise awareness of advanced prostate cancer.
"People should be aware of what the potential is for prostate cancer and what the potential is for a cure and to live a happy life," said Palmer, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1997.
"When it was discovered that I had it, I was able to get treated with very good results. Without having done that, it might have gotten away."
Every year, approximately 8,000 cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed at an advanced stage and Palmer does not under-estimate the value of his work with the My Prostate Cancer Roadmap programme.
"A lot of people shy away from even talking about cancer and more particularly prostate cancer," he said. "We want people to pay attention, get their checkups, see their doctors and have the necessary tests that will tell them that they are either free or that they need to continue and do more."
"If I could have every man do that, it would be something that I would feel is a major accomplishment."