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Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson, and Other Great Left Handed Golfers: A Fan’s Review
When Phil Mickelson won the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, it was his 40th career win on the PGA Tour. This victory tied Mickelson for ninth on the all-time list for most PGA Tour wins (right and left handed players), with World Golf Hall of Fame member Cary Middlecoff. Among those playing the game left-handed, Phil Mickelson is easily #1.
Until recently it was not easy to find left-handed golf equipment. Even if you found clubs, you may have had difficulty finding a qualified left-handed instructor. Many otherwise left-handed people play golf right handed, including several well-known successful professionals such as Nick Price, Johnny Miller, and Curtis Strange. Interestingly, Phil Mickelson is just the opposite, being right-handed in everything but golf.
Having overcome the obstacles to playing golf left-handed, there are only nine golfers who have ever won a PGA Tour event playing from the "wrong side". Four of those: Russ Cochran, Erix Axley, Sam Adams, and Ernie Gonzales; were winners of only one tournament each. That leaves the following as the Top 5 Left-Handed PGA Tour Winners of All Time, as of February 18, 2012:
Mickelson is one of only four golfers to win the NCAA Championship and U.S. Amateur in the same year. The others are Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, and Ryan Moore. He is the last amateur to win a PGA Tour event, the 1991 Northern Telecom Open. After several years as the unofficial "greatest player to have never won a major", Phil Mickelson won the 2004 Masters Championship. He is currently ranked #11 in the official world golf rankings, and has four career major championships on his record.
Mike Weir has one major championship, the 2003 Masters, and eight total victories on the PGA Tour. As a Canadian, he is one of two "foreigners" on this list. It is said that Mike learned to play with 7 clubs, consisting of 3 woods and 4 irons. At age 12 he won a Junior Championship, with a complete set of clubs as the first prize. This was the first complete set of golf clubs Mike ever had.
With his victory at the 1963 British Open, Bob Charles became the first left-handed player to ever win one of golf's four "Majors". A native of New Zealand, Charles won six times on the PGA Tour, from 1963 to 1974. Now at age 75, he has an additional 23 wins on the PGA's Champions Tour. With 24 other victories around the world, it can be argued that Bob Charles is the winningest left-handed professional of all-time.
Steve Flesch has won four times on the PGA Tour, from the 2003 HP Classic of New Orleans to the 2007 Turning Stone Resort Championship. Flesch was over 30 years old when he first joined the PGA Tour in 1998, having played for several years on the Asian Tour and the Nationwide Tour. His victory at the 2004 Bank of America Colonial made Steve Flesch only the fourth multiple winner on the PGA Tour playing left-handed.
Gerry "Bubba" Watson
Watson is one of the longest hitters to ever play the game. He has the longest tee shot, 422 yards, ever recorded on the Nationwide Tour. At the 2010 PGA Championship, by his own calculations, he hit a drive of about 445 yards! A PGA Tour regular since 2006, Watson claimed his first victory at the 2010 Travelers Championship. He won twice in 2011, the Farmers Insurance Open and Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Bubba Watson is likely to win again, perhaps many more times, to further establish himself as one of the greatest left-handed PGA golfers of all-time.
Harold Andrews has played golf nearly 50 years (both competitively and recreationally) and considers Jack Nicklaus the greatest golfer of all time.
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