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Posted April 8, 2015, 3:24 pm
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Why do lefties do so well at Augusta?

  • Article Photos
    Why do lefties do so well at Augusta?
    Photos description
    Mike Weir and caddie Danny Sahl prepare for a second shot on No. 13. Weir, a lefty, won the Masters in 2003.
  • Article Photos
    Why do lefties do so well at Augusta?
    Photos description
    Bubba Watson swings with a pink driver on the driving range Wednesday. The left-hander and defending champion has said Augusta National sets up well for his game.

Why do lefties do so well at Au­gusta?

Is it because:

a) The preferred shot shape is right-to-left, which is a cut for left-handed golfers?

b) Modern equipment helps the ball go farther and makes it easier to hit a cut shot than a draw?

c) The current crop of left-handed golfers is very good?

d) All of the above?

After getting shut out for the first 66 Masters Tournaments, lefties have won half of the past 12 at Augusta National Golf Club. Mike Weir broke through in 2003, then Phil Mickelson followed with three more victories. Bubba Watson has won two of the past three Masters to continue the trend.

Those three champions, along with Masters rookie Brian Harman, are the only lefties in this year’s field.

Mickelson, Watson and Weir all pointed to the cut shot as being a key factor. Nos. 2, 5, 9, 10, 13 and 14 all bend to the left, which suits a cut for left-handers.

“For us, it sets up good for a cut, and that’s what you need around here, or a draw for a right-hander,” Watson said. “For us, it sets up good for the shot shape we’re trying to hit.”

Advances in technology let long hitters like Watson and Mickelson use a 3-wood on some tee shots and still hit the ball as far as some players do with a driver.

“You can analyze it as much as you want, but I think the fact that the equipment has allowed fades to go longer has allowed us to get to the bottom of the fairway, the bottom of the hill on 10 and get it out there far enough on 13 with a cut and still be able to reach it,” Mickelson said. “Where we’re able to control that a little bit better. But you’re talking about fractions-of-a-stroke difference.”

Three-time Masters winner and CBS analyst Nick Faldo, who is right-handed, said it’s easier to hit a cut shot with modern technology.

“I’m leaning toward the mod­ern driver, just a little easier to block and hit a pow­er fade than to turn it over and hit a draw,” he said.

Mickelson said the shortest hole on the course, the par-3 12th, favors left-handed players.

“(It) sits perfectly along a left-handed shot dispersion, short left, long right, so you aim at the middle of the green and you have a huge green to hit at,” Mickelson said. “It’s opposite of a right-handed shot dispersion, you aim at the middle of the green, you pull it, it goes long left; you push it, it goes short right in the water. There’s holes like that that sit better for left-handed players.”

Masters statistics bear out Mickel­son’s theory. Since World War II, for players with at least 25 rounds at the Masters, Weir has the lowest career average (2.96) at the 12th.

Similarly, Mickelson has dominated the par-5 13th, playing it 66-under-par in 84 rounds.

A handful of holes that are either straight or dogleg to the right are problematic for the left-handed players.

“It’s 7, 1 and 18 are the holes that I look at that are difficult for me off the tee,” Watson said. “When you think about all of the other holes look good to my eye, set up well for me, the trees outline the fairway pretty good, so it’s easy for me to envision the shot I want to hit.”

For Weir, it boils down to talent.

“I think it’s just the player, his skill level and those guys (Mickelson and Watson) are long players,” he said. “Bubba curves the ball a lot, and I think that lends itself well here.”

ESPN announcer Curtis Strange agreed with Weir.

“The No. 1 factor is their talent and more left-handed players are playing the game now,” he said. “Phil Mickelson can win on any golf course you put him on.”

Whatever the reason for the success, Watson hopes that the trend continues and that he joins the short list of Masters winners who have successfully defended their title.

“It’s golf, so it goes in cycles who wins or doesn’t,” he said. “For some reason, lefties have won recently, and hopefully it keeps going with me and not the other lefties. It’s one of those things. For years, there wasn’t that many lefties on tour, and now with equipment, there’s more lefties and now there’s more chances for us to win the Masters a few more times.”