Left-handed compliment: Why southpaws thrive at Augusta

By Brandel ChambleeApril 2, 2015, 12:00 pm

From the beginning of the Masters in 1934 until 2002, every winner had one thing in common. They played right-handed. In the 12 Masters since, southpaws have won six times, including two wins by this year’s defending champion, Bubba Watson. 

Given how few left-handed golfers have played in the year’s first major, this 50 percent success rate touches the limits of probability. It could be that the improvements in equipment offered to these formerly “left out” golfers have lifted them to a point of equality, but that doesn’t explain why lefties have done so comparatively poorly in the other majors? Bob Charles (1963 British Open) and Phil Mickelson (2005 PGA, 2013 British Open) are the only southpaws who have won a major other than the Masters.

In 2003 professional golf was turned on its proverbial ear by the introduction of two new hard-core balls – Titleist’s Pro V1 and Pro V1x. Together they were responsible for a cataclysmic gain in distance, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since rubber-core balls made “gutties” obsolete about 100 years ago and, in the opinion of many observers of the day, ruined the game.

In 2002 Mickelson averaged 288 yards off the tee. That jumped to 306 in 2003. Similarly, Ernie Els went from 281 yards to 303, and Vijay Singh from 285 to 302. In 2002, just 18 players averaged 290 yards or longer. One year later, 64 did. The leader in driving distance in 2002 averaged 306.8 yards. In 2003 the number was a record 321.4.

With this gain in distance came a corresponding decrease in accuracy. Longer tee shots had wider dispersion patterns, of course. But these new balls also spun less, so they were more difficult to curve. That effectively halved the size of the fairway for Tour pros. Because they couldn't count on working the ball from the edge of the fairway back to the center, they had to aim there.

In theory, these balls were just as hard to draw as they were to fade, the difference being a clubface that is open (fade) or closed (draw) relative to the path of the swing. In practice, however, a draw is harder to hit because it demands more patience with the lower body, while a fade can be achieved by clearing one’s hips as fast as possible.

Since 2003, when solid-core balls began to take over the pro tours, it has been much harder to hit a draw than a fade. This peculiarity plays right into the game of left-handed golfers when they get to Augusta National, where key tee shots at Nos. 2, 5, 9, 10 and 13 scream for a right-to-left shot, which is much easier accomplished by a left-handed golfer.

Phil Mickelson first played in the Masters in 1991 and would play 11 times before winning in 2004. That was the first of his three wins there in a seven-year span.

Outside of the Masters, Bubba Watson has played in 22 majors and has just two top-10 finishes, but he has two wins in just eight trips to Augusta.

Mike Weir had played three times in the year’s first major, with his best finish a tie for 24th place. But in 2003 he put the new version of the solid-core ball in play and became the first left-hander to win the Masters. In fact, up until that year he had played in 15 majors and had finished as high as 10th only once; but in 2003, besides his win at Augusta, he finished third at the U.S. Open and seventh at the PGA Championship.

Steve Flesch, another left-hander, has played in 33 major championships and his lone top-five finish came in the 2008 Masters.

Contrast this Magnolia Lane success with that of Bob Charles, who in 1963 became the first lefty to win a major when he defeated Phil Rogers in a playoff at the Open Championship. Charles would twice finish third in the U.S. Open and had a runner-up finish in the PGA Championship, but in more than a dozen trips to Augusta National he never finished better than 15th despite being one of the best putters of all time. Charles, despite being one of the best players of his era, struggled at Augusta, mostly for his lack of great length, but he played when the equipment allowed all players to work the ball in both directions.

Once again as the Masters draws near, a left-hander, Watson, is the defending champion. For those who think the above argument has gone too far, well, perhaps you are right. Perhaps it’s more important that these players who stand on the “wrong side of the ball” are finally as well equipped as their right-handed rivals. But tell me this: When was the last time you saw a right-handed player hit a right-to-left tee shot at No. 13 that covered the distance and found the angle to the pin that Bubba’s did last year on Sunday?


Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: 147th Open Championship

By Tiger TrackerJuly 21, 2018, 9:00 am

Tiger Woods shot his second consecutive 70 on Friday at Carnoustie and enters weekend play at even par for the championship, still in contention for major No. 15.

Getty Images

How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 8:30 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on GolfChannel.com.  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; GC.com=GolfChannel.com or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (stream.golfchannel.com)

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/theopen)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM (www.golfchannel.com/spotlight)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/marqueegroup)

GC.com: Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (www.golfchannel.com/3holechannel)

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (www.golfchannel.com/livefromstream)

Getty Images

Storms halt Barbasol before Lincicome tees off

By Associated PressJuly 20, 2018, 11:29 pm

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. - Brittany Lincicome will have to wait until the weekend to resume her bid to make the cut in a PGA Tour event.

Overnight storms delayed the start of the second round Friday in the Barbasol Championship, and an afternoon thunderstorm suspended competition for good. The round will resume Saturday morning with much of the field still to play.

The second stoppage at Champions Trace at Keene Trace Golf Club came 20 minutes before Lincicome's scheduled tee time.

Lincicome was near the bottom of the field after opening with a 6-over 78 on Thursday. The first LPGA player since Michelle Wie in 2008 to start a PGA Tour event, she needs a huge rebound to join Babe Zaharias (1945) as the only female players to make the cut.

Troy Merritt had the clubhouse lead at 15 under, following an opening 62 with a 67.

Getty Images

Third-round tee times for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 20, 2018, 9:05 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eighteen major champions made the cut at The Open and will be playing the weekend at Carnoustie, including 60-year-old ageless wonder Bernhard Langer, and both major champs so far this year, Patrick Reed and Brooks Koepka.

Twenty-four-year-old Gavin Green will be first off solo Saturday at 4:15 a.m. ET. Reed and Rhys Enoch will follow along 10 minutes later.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, both at even par for the tournament, six shots behind leaders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner, are in consecutive groups. Mickelson is playing with Austin Cook at 8:05 a.m. and Woods is with South Africa’s Shaun Norris at 8:15 a.m.

Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler, both three shots off the lead, are also in consecutive groups. Fowler is at 10 a.m. with Thorbjorn Olesen and Spieth is 10 minutes later with Kevin Chappell. Rory McIlroy, looking to win his first major since the 2014 PGA Championship, is at 10:40 a.m. with Xander Schauffele. McIlroy is two shots behind.

Johnson and Kisner are last off at 11 a.m.

4:15AM ET: Gavin Green

4:25AM ET: Rhys Enoch, Patrick Reed

4:35AM ET: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Justin Rose

4:45AM ET: Yusaku Miyazato, Tyrrell Hatton

4:55AM ET: Ross Fisher, Keegan Bradley

5:05AM ET: Ryan Fox, Jason Dufner

5:15AM ET: Bryson DeChambeau, Henrik Stenson

5:25AM ET: Tom Lewis, Sam Locke (a)

5:35AM ET: Paul Casey, Chris Wood

5:45AM ET: Bernhard Langer, Rafa Cabrera Bello

6:00AM ET: Paul Dunne, Brett Rumford

6:10AM ET: Masahiro Kawamura, Shubhankar Sharma

6:20AM ET: Cameron Smith, Brendan Steele

6:30AM ET: Marc Leishman, Lee Westwood

6:40AM ET: Byeong Hun An, Kevin Na

6:50AM ET: Julian Suri, Adam Hadwin

7:00AM ET: Gary Woodland, Si-Woo Kim

7:10AM ET: Yuta Ikeda, Satoshi Kodaira

7:20AM ET: Marcus Kinhult, Thomas Pieters

7:30AM ET: Beau Hossler, Haotong Li

7:45AM ET: Cameron Davis, Sean Crocker

7:55AM ET: Louis Oosthuizen, Stewart Cink

8:05AM ET: Phil Mickeslon, Austin Cook

8:15AM ET: Tiger Woods, Shaun Norris

8:25AM ET: Lucas Herbert, Michael Kim

8:35AM ET: Jason Day, Francesco Molinari

8:45AM ET: Sung Kang, Webb Simpson

8:55AM ET: Patrick Cantlay, Eddie Pepperell

9:05AM ET: Matthew Southgate, Brooks Koepka

9:15AM ET: Kyle Stanley, Adam Scott

9:30AM ET: Charley Hoffman, Alex Noren

9:40AM ET: Ryan Moore, Brandon Stone

9:50AM ET: Luke List, Danny Willett

10:00AM ET: Thorbjorn Olesen, Rickie Fowler

10:10AM ET: Jordan Spieth, Kevin Chappell

10:20AM ET: Zander Lombard, Tony Finau

10:30AM ET: Matt Kuchar, Erik Van Rooyen

10:40AM ET: Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele

10:50AM ET: Pat Perez, Tommy Fleetwood

11:00AM ET: Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson