The King played his last six holes choking back tears and walked off the 18th green to a thunderous ovation Saturday morning.
In the ultimate sign of respect, David Duval lingered by the scoring hut to watch Palmer finish up - even though Duval missed the cut.
Palmer was a four-time champion playing the tournament for the last time.
"A lot of things came to my mind," he said. "The tournaments I won, some I lost. Certainly, there's both sides of it. The last couple of days, there was maybe a little heavy emotion within myself. It's not always noticeable, but the feeling is there."
He paused, his lip quivering as he struggled to hold back the tears.
Stormy weather created some improbable scenes at pristine Augusta National. Pine straw covered the walking paths across the fairway, and muddy sand was spread between the clubhouse and the 18th hole.
Palmer played his 147th and final round at the Masters, saluted by an army of fans on just about every step around the course.
The 72-year-old King made it to the weekend in his 48th Masters, even though his mammoth score - a 30-over 174 - wasn't being posted on the boards.
It didn't matter.
"This place won't be the same without him," two-time winner Ben Crenshaw said.
Palmer briefly toyed with the idea of playing two more years, but his poor play convinced him that it was time to step aside. An 89 Thursday equaled his worst round ever at Augusta, and he finished with an 85.
"My game is not good," he said. "I hope to go out next week and start practicing, find the answer to my problems and get on with it."