Mind Games: Why lefties thrive at Augusta National course

2014-04-21 10:00

Bubba Watson’s impressive second US Masters victory has somewhat confirmed the theory that the course at Augusta National Golf Club is a left-hander’s paradise.

In the history of golf, only four southpaws have won majors – New Zealand’s Bob Charles, Canada’s Mike Weir, and Americans Phil Mickelson and Watson.

They’ve won nine majors in total between them –?six of them at Augusta. Mickelson has three Masters titles under his belt, Watson now has two and Weir won the green jacket in 2003.

The first left-hander to take one of the four majors was Charles (now Sir Robert Charles since being knighted in 1999), who won the 1963 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.

It would be 40 years before Mike Weir triumphed in a major when he beat Len Mattiace in a sudden death play-off at Augusta in 2003.

The next year, Mickelson (the only one of the foursome to be given the obvious nickname “Lefty”) finally made good on his immense promise by taking the Masters?–?the one in which he holed a tricky birdie putt on the 72nd green to shut out Ernie Els.

Mickelson would go on to put his name on two more green jackets (the blazer traditionally presented to the winner of the Masters) and, other than Charles, is the only left-handed player with

a major away from Augusta.

Mickelson won last year’s British Open at Muirfield and his other title was the US PGA at Baltusrol, New Jersey, in 2005.

Watson, known for his long hitting with his trademark pink driver, has now won the Masters twice in three years.

In 2012, he produced a phenomenal hooked wedge shot from deep in the trees on the 10th to beat South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen in a sudden death

play-off, but this year he played a supremely confident last round to beat youngsters Jordan Spieth and Jonas Blixt by three shots.

In a championship first stripped of the compelling presence of Tiger Woods because of injury and then Mickelson, who missed the cut, Watson’s march to victory was hailed alongside great wins by Jack Nicklaus, Ray Floyd, Gary Player and Mickelson.

The tournament showed that the game is greater than the individual, with numerous significant storylines?– such as Craig and Kevin Stadler becoming the first father and son to play in the same tournament and the 20-year-old Spieth having a good crack at supplanting Woods as the youngest winner.

So what is it with Augusta that favours left-handers? It lies in the fact that Bobby Jones’ storied

layout is a hooker’s course?– for right-handers.

Most holes favour a draw, the ball curving from right to left, off the tee. It was for this reason that Lee Trevino, whose tee-ball was a fade (left to right) said he could not win at Augusta.

In time, better equipment and balls that fly miles came into the picture and players were able to drive deeper into the doglegs (sharp bends).?And this is where Mickelson and Watson came into their own.

They could hit a left-hander’s fade, with its gentler spin and softer landing characteristics, around the corners and have the ball stop on the fairways rather than the “hot” hooks of right-handers.

Feeling confident and safe off the tee is obviously an advantage, but all three lefties possessed superb short games.

In his prime, Weir was one of the best putters and chippers in the game and Mickelson has perfected his wedge play to an art form. The same must now be said for Watson. Although he was able to bring to bear his immense length off the tee, his short game was excellent.

The greens at Augusta are the quickest the players encounter,

with wicked slopes, which is not effectively shown on TV. Watson’s distance control and holing out was as good as you get, but in the end the key difference was the many superb pitches he played to tricky targets off extremely tight lies to save shots and keep the chasing pack at bay.

There were doubts after his first win but now there can be no question – Gerry Lester Watson Jr is a real master.

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