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Who’s the Greatest (left-handed golfer of all time)?

filesmall Various | commentmall Written by John Nelson
With the recent victories of Bubba Watson the discussion about who is the best, most charismatic and most likeable left-handed golfer of all time has been brought to life again. Our John Nelson looks in more detail at some of the game's best who played golf "the wrong way around" and comes to a surprising conclusion.

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.

Who is the best left-handed golfer of all time?

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!

Bob Charles 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!
Mike Weir 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
Phil Mickelson USA 39
Mike Weir Canada 8
Bob Charles New Zealand 6
Steve Flesch USA 4
Bubba Watson USA 3
Russ Cochran USA 1
Eric Axley USA 1
Sam Adams USA 1
Ernie Gonzales USA 1

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?

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6 Responses to “Who’s the Greatest (left-handed golfer of all time)?”

  • As good as many of the other left-handers are, Phil has won more PGA events and majors and made more money than any of them. Period. I like Bubba Watson’s game but then there’s that “bubba” part–complaining in France because he wasn’t coddled like he is in America and not knowing the basic cultural heritage of the country that hosted him. Very close-minded.

    Besides, how can I find fault with the man’s charitable actions and his dedication to his family.

    Phil is the best left handed player of all time.

  • comment  Rodney Hany Says:

    Phil is number 1 a great person who reaches out to help others, wether it is through his chairity or through stopping to hand a fan a golf ball or glove. For that alone he has my respect. Phil also treats others with great respect and knows what type of slices that life can throw at you. Now to the golf game. Top left handed player with out question. My wife is an angel and we take in foster children. We have adopted 4. I was blessed and I am also left handed. My adopted son and foster son are both left handed also. Guess we are the 3%… You are an inspiration to all of us Phil. God bless you and your family.

  • comment  Ed Thomas Says:

    Is this article serious?
    You are comparing Phil to guys who are merely left handed. It’s like asking if Jack Nicklaus is the best right handed golfer (duh) and then bringing up names like Lumpy and Rich Beem.
    It’s not even a discussion that Phil is the best lefty,and one of the best ever when all is said and done. He needs 2 more majors and a couple more wins to crack top ten all-time.

  • I’m thrilled left-handed golfers are now a little better received on the course. Jokes about being on the wrong side of the ball come from insecure golfers! The facts are clear, nine left-handers on the PGA tour and two out of nine are in the Top 25! A good % to brag about when playing with cocky righties! We can thank Phil, Bob Charles, Mike and Bubba for our new-found “favor!”

    PHIL: 41 wins. (4 majors) Who is even close???

    BUBBA: 3 wins. (1 major) “I maybe wrong as to wins” 4??


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