Whenever a left-handed player wins a PGA Tour event, the topic usually arises, “Who is the Greatest Left-Handed golfer of all time?” Since two different left-handed players have won so far in 2011 (Phil Mickelson and Bubba Watson - twice) the topic is being discussed more this year than in many recent seasons.
Being a left-handed golfer presents several considerable obstacles that need to be overcome. First, until fairly recently, left-handed equipment was quite hard to come by. I remember as a left-handed 13-year old caddy, the difficulty I had in trying to find left-handed clubs to play with. Even more difficult is trying to find a qualified left-handed instructor!
Left-handed people make up about 13-15% of the population, whereas people who play golf left-handed are thought to comprise only around 2-3% of all golfers male and female.
Eventually I gave up, and learned to play right-handed. I am not alone. Such well-known professional golfers such as Nick Price, Johnny Miller, and Curtis Strange are natural left-handers, but learned to play the game right-handed!
Because of these hurdles and others, truly great left-handed golfers are a rarity. In the history of the PGA Tour, there are only nine left-handed golfers to ever win a PGA Tour event!
|Of those nine, perhaps the first to become a well-known name around the world was Bob Charles. Sir Robert James Charles who hails from New Zealand won the 1963 British Open Championship. This made him the first left-handed player to ever win one of golf’s four “Majors”. His career on the PGA Tour includes 6 championships. On the European PGA Tour he accumulated 4 wins to go along with 8 wins on the PGA Australasian Tour. In all (counting the PGA Senior Tour) Mr. Charles amassed 68 professional titles!|
|Canadian Mike Weir became the second left-handed player to win a major when he won the 2003 Masters. Mike has put together a very respectable career which includes 8 PGA Tour wins and 7 other wins as a professional. The story is told that Mike learned to play with 7 hand-me-down clubs (3 woods and 4 irons), given to him by a relative. When Mike was 12-years old he won a Junior Championship which had as first prize – a complete set of clubs. This was the first complete set of golf clubs that Mike ever had!|
In recent years Gerry “Bubba” Watson has emerged as a favorite on the PGA Tour. His three wins to date have brought his name into the discussion on left-handed greatness. Bubba seems to have the attributes of the new generation of PGA stars. He is one of the longest hitters to ever play the game. In fact Bubba led the PGA tour his rookie season with an average distance of 316-yards! His tall 6”3” frame and his aggressive play make him a favorite of many galleries.
People began to pay closer attention to Bubba after his 1-stroke victory over fellow lefty, Phil Mickelson in the 2011 Farmers Insurance Open. Bubba is only 32-years of age and will hopefully continue to add to his ever improving resume, but he has a long way to go if he is going to reach some of the milestones set by Phil Mickelson. Watson has been in the spotlight again lately, but for the wrong reasons: After missing the cut at the French Open he complained about the behavior of the local fans, lack of security and showed a lack of knowledge about the world famous French landmarks like the Eiffel tower or the Louvre…
Phil Mickelson has long been one of the most popular golfers on the PGA Tour. His respect for golf and his fellow competitors have always been evident. The fact that Phil and his wife are very active in charitable work, only adds to his stature among players.
Phil entered the golfing scene at a young age and had a stellar armature career. Phil was the NCAA individual champion 3-times. He also won the U.S. Armature. Phil stepped into the spotlight by winning his first event as a professional, the 1991 Northern Telecom Open.
As far as total professional wins, Phil is actually second to Bob Charles. But based on his four majors, being consistently in the top 10 in world ranking, and the fact that the majority of Mr. Charles’s wins came on the Senior Tour - we give the edge to Phil as the all time greatest left-handed golfer!
Some of the numbers are quite impressive. Of the six major championships ever won by left-handed players, Phil has four of those wins! As seen in the chart below, of the 64 total wins all time by left-handed players on the PGA Tour, Phil owns 39 of those wins. 39 wins on the PGA Tour ranks Phil 10th in the all-time wins list (left or right-handed)!
|Left-Handed Winners on the PGA Tour|
|Name||Country||PGA Tour Wins|
|Bob Charles||New Zealand||6|
Phil has won 7 times on the European Tour and also has 6 other global wins for a grand total of 51 professional championships.
Phil owns the dubious distinction of being ranked 2nd longer than any other player in the history of the World Golf Rankings!
In spite of significant hurdles, left-handed players do have a rich heritage that was blazed by great names like Bob Charles and Phil Mickelson. These men are not only examples for young left-handed boys and girls to aspire to; they are also sterling examples of the type of individuals that make the game of golf great!
Please use the comment function to share your opinion about the best left-handed professional golfers of all time. Do you agree that Phil Mickelson should come out on top? Or is it time to move aside for someone like Bubba Watson?