The Best Left Handed Golfers
Ted Potter surprised the world of golf – and probably himself – when he won the recent AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. It got us thinking about the game’s best lefties and what they have achieved. Surprisingly, only four left-handed golfers have won majors – and two of those are actually right-handed. Golfers who are left handed but play right handed is another story altogether. More than 15% of the world’s population are left-handed, so it is actually pretty surprising that more of them have not become champion golfers. Here, we look at the major winners and the best of the rest.
Mickelson is actually not left-handed. He is a right-hander who was taught to play the game the ‘wrong way’ round. It actually makes sense when you think about it. If your right hand and arm are your strongest then why wouldn’t you use it to pull the club through the ball – and no lefty has ever done it better than Mickelson. The American has won The Masters three times, the US PGA once and The Open once. Famously, he has finished runner-up in the US Open on six occasions. Mickelson sprays the ball all over the place from the tee, but is in a class of his own when it comes to his short game. From 100 yards and in, the man is genius, frequently producing recovery shots that leave us open-mouthed.
While Mickelson is a genius with a wedge in his hands, for New Zealander Charles it was the putter. At a time when most of the world’s best golfers employed a wrist putting stroke, Charles was one of the first to perfect the pendulum stroke – and boy did he ever! He won The Open in 1963. Now in his 80s, he won 76 tournaments, including six on the PGA Tour, four on the European Tour and 23 on the Champions Tour. He was also one of the straightest hitters the game has ever known. Charles remained competitive into his seventies, beating his age twice during a tournament when he was 71
What is it about left-handers? The Canadian was another short-game magician when he was in his prime. He won The Masters at Augusta in 2003 at a time when he was undoubtedly one of the best golfers on the planet. Like Mickelson, he is a natural right-hander. Weir had always been one of the shooters hitters on the PGA Tour, but it didn’t stop him winning eight times on the PGA Tour. Inexplicably, after winning the Fry’s in 2007 he decided that he needed to find some more yards and changed his swing. He duly disappeared off the face of the competitive earth.
Bubba is one of the most colourful players the PGA Tour has ever produced. He hits the ball a mile with a swing that is all his own. He proudly boasts that he has never had a lesson in his life – and that is reassuring as anybody who ever taught a pupil to swing the club the way that Bubba does would be drummed out of the game. But here’s the thing – he can play a bit. Nobody wins The Masters twice unless they have plenty of game. The shot he played around the trees during a playoff with Louis Oosthuizen to win the Green Jacket in 2012 was one that even Save Ballesteros would have been proud to have called his own.
Ted Potter Jr
Potter’s victory at Pebble Beach is one of golf’s great comeback stories. He is another who is a natural right-hander. Potter won the Greenbrier Classic during his rookie season back in 2012 and followed it with a solid second season. But in July 2014 he broke his ankle at the Canadian Open and did not play again until April 2016. And when he returned, it was all a struggle for him and he ended up playing on the Web.com Tour. But he regained his playing privileges for the 2017-18 PGA Tour season and promptly won at Pebble Beach, beating a world-class field in the process.
Harman was a brilliant amateur, winning the Porter Cup in 2007 with a 22-under-par total of 258. He also played in the Walker Cup twice before turning professional in 2010. He possesses one of the most fluid swings in the game, but it took a while for him to make his mark. He won the John Deere Classic in 2014 and the Wells Fargo in 2017. He also finished second in the 2017 US Open. Capable of producing some very low scores.
The American’s solitary victory came in the 1991 Western Open, but he also accumulated more than 60 top-10 finishes, and enjoyed a purple patch on the Champions Tour, where he won five times in three years.
Flesch was renowned as a big hitter, with a temper to match! Between 2003 and 2007, when he was in his prime, he won four times. He had a great chance to win The Masters in 2008 but crumbled to a final round of 78 and ended up finishing in a tie for fifth place – he was sixth the following year. Now 50, he should make a fortune on the Champions Tour.
Axley is one of a tiny handful of golfers to win on both the PGA and Web.com Tours. His solitary victory on the PGA Tour came at the Texas Open in 2006. After a poor 2009 season, Axley lost his PGA Tour playing rights. In 2014, Axley tried to play his way back to the PGA Tour through Monday qualifying and past champion status, making just seven cuts and finishing 184th in the FedEx Cup standings.
The Australian had a swing that was reminiscent of Bob Charles and built a reputation as a straight hitter with a fine touch on the greens. He won three times on the European Tour, including the Dubai Desert Classic in 1997.
And worth a notable mention…
Anybody watching O’Hern play recently could be forgiven for a doing a double-take. The Australian is a left-hander who has come close to winning on many occasions but suffered so badly with the yips that he now putts right-handed!
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