11 Mar 2018

Mickelson, Bubba and Harmon: Watch out for the leftys at Augusta

Keep a close eye on Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Brian Harmon. This American trio are in form and arrive at a course almost ready made for them.

With modern balls and drivers, a fade shot off the tee is easier to control than a draw, and with Augusta favouring a right to left shape from the tee box of the majority of the holes, it gives left-handers an edge over their right-handed counterparts.

Six of the last 15 Green Jackets have gone to left handers. Mickelson, who at 47 would break Jack Nicklaus’s long-standing record as the oldest winner, enjoyed something of a hot-streak earlier this year as his first-ever run of four successive top-six finishes on Tour ended with a win at the WGC- Mexico, his first triumph in four years. He has three Green Jackets to his name having won in ’04, ’06 and 2010 and was runner-up in 2015.

Watson, a two-time winner at Augusta, has returned to form after a barren 2017 which saw him lose weight after contracting a mystery illness. With a win under his belt at Riviera in February, Watson is trending in the right direction ahead of this year’s event.

Harmon is fast becoming a man for the big occasion. He shared second place behind Brooks Koepka at last year’s US Open and posted top tens at the WGC-HSBC Champions in November and the WGC-Mexico last month. The 31-year-old, who won the Wells Fargo ahead of Dustin Johnson last May for his first PGA Tour title, flies somewhat under the radar below his more illustrious left-handed peers. Two top five finishes in the first two events of the season have put him on course for a Ryder Cup debut later this year, and good showings at the Majors will solidify his chances of making the team. He’ll need to take advantage of being a lefty at Augusta and he has the game and the form to succeed.

Horses for courses

Left-handers have the edge on holes 2, 9, 10 and 13 because the tee shots move right to left, which suits a nice left-handed fade

Augusta is very much a ‘second shot’ layout because of how dynamic and hard the greens are, but if a player can put it in the right places off the tee they have a better chance of hitting a more accurate approach shot with a short iron or wedge in their hands. Holes 2 and 10 are both sweeping downhill right to left doglegs and a left-handed power fade should catch the slope and feed down, closer to the green. In 2014, en route to victory, Bubba Watson hit a monster high cut on the par 5 13th – another huge right to left dogleg – which sailed over the trees and left him with 140 yards to the pin. No right-hander has a hope of putting the ball there off the tee.

The iconic short 12th hole (left) is also deceptively easier for a left- hander because of the shape of the green. If a right-handed player hangs his shot out to the right, it’s going to come up short and find the drink (as happened to Jordan Spieth in 2016). If a lefty blocks it, the ball should still carry to the green because of the angle at which the putting surface sits. The reverse is also true. If a lefty tugs it, the ball should find the back right portion of the green. If a right-hander hits a slight pull, it will go long and through the left hand side of the green and into the pine straw leaving a devilish up-and-down.

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