herald

Friday 9 December 2016

How the lefties have come to rule Masters

Defending champion Bubba Watson watches his tee shot on the second hole on his way to a first round 71, the same score as World No 1 Rory McIlroy
Defending champion Bubba Watson watches his tee shot on the second hole on his way to a first round 71, the same score as World No 1 Rory McIlroy

Left-handers are winning the Masters and Europeans are being shut out, raising the question of whether there is a reason or just the latest turn of a cycle at Augusta National.

Lefties went 40 years between major titles, from the British Open triumph by New Zealander Bob Charles in 1963 until Canadian Mike Weir won the 2003 Masters.

Now you can hardly stop them. Following Weir, southpaws Phil Mickelson and fellow American Bubba Watson have accounted for five Masters wins in the last 11 years.

The European Ryder Cup team, meanwhile, has become nearly invincible, beating the US side in eight of the last 10 match-play contests, but Europe has failed to produce a Masters winner since Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain in 1999.

"It's just cycles," said former victorious US Ryder Cup captain and former major winner Paul Azinger.

"Anybody can win at any time. You just got to look for the player that's got some power and can drum up some magic around the greens."

Mickelson conceded that the course set up better for lefties.

"There are holes that sit better for left-handed players," said Big Lefty, the 2004, 2006 and 2010 champion.

Augusta National always favoured a right-to-left draw for right-handed players, but after Tiger Woods began making mincemeat of Augusta National's par-fives with his length off the tees, 'Tiger proofing' measures were taken.

Masters officials strategically planted some trees to promote accuracy off the tee and lengthened several holes. A left-hander's cut shot is easier to control than a draw, swinging the balance toward the portsiders.

European players once ruled at Augusta. Between 1980 and 1999, Europe won 11 Masters, including five of six from 1988.

Promoted articles

Entertainment News