The Best Left-Handed Golfers of All Time
Every year on August 13, the roughly 10 percent of the global population who are left-dominant bask in the glow of International Left-Handers Day. While golf is a sport that has always favored right-handers—far fewer than 10 percent of all golfers play left-handed—we are taking a moment to salute the best left-handed golfers of all time. Left-handers have had to overcome the lack of available equipment, the lack of role models, and the inclination of instructors to push natural lefties to learn the game right-handed. If there were a Mount Rushmore of left-handed golfers, it would feature Phil Mickelson, one of the game’s all-time greats, along with the only other left-handed players to win majors championships—Bubba Watson, Mike Weir, and Bob Charles. This foursome stands head and shoulders above all other left-handed golfers. It’s fair to say nobody is clamoring to add anyone else to the list of the greatest left-handed golfers. Astonishingly few left-handed golfers have made it to the game’s highest level. In the nearly 100-year history of the PGA Tour, just 14 left-handers have hoisted a tournament trophy, and only one besides our Mount Rushmore foursome has won more than twice. As recently as the 1980s, just one left-hander played regularly on the Tour. In women’s golf history, fewer than 10 left-handers have played in a single LPGA Tour tournament and only one left-handed golfer has ever captured an LPGA Tour tournament crown. Against such odds, the accomplishments of the best left-handed golfers in the history of the sport deserve even more appreciation.
Phil Mickelson—The GOAT of Left-Handed Golfers
Though he is right-handed, Phil Mickelson is undisputedly the best left-handed golfer of all time. When he first picked up a golf club at age two, he started mirroring his father’s right-handed chip shots. Suffice it to say his left-handed swing became so natural it carried him to the pinnacle of the sport. One of only two left-handed-players in the World Golf Hall of Fame (Bob Charles is the other), Phil, who now competes on the LIV Golf circuit, has six majors and 45 total PGA Tour victories to his credit. He won the first PGA Tour tournament he entered, the 1991 Northern Telecom Open in Tucson, when he was 20 years old and a star on the Arizona State University golf team. No amateur has won on the Tour since. For many years thereafter Mickelson was labeled “the best player who never won a major,” but that all changed with his dramatic, walk-off birdie on the 72nd-hole of the 2004 Masters. Known affectionately as “Lefty,” Mickelson has long endeared himself to fans with his incredible talent, throw-caution-to-the wind playing style, and smiling demeanor. Phil’s short game skills, highlighted by his signature green-side flop shot, are peerless. Over the years his rivalry with Tiger Woods never failed to captivate the golf world. Mickelson’s star has shined brightest at the Masters, where he has accumulated three green jackets (2004, 2006, 2010). The only major to elude him has been the U.S. Open, but he has finished runner-up a record six times. The most remarkable victory in Mickelson’s career was the 2021 PGA Championship at Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s Ocean Course. Though he had been slumping coming into the event, his heroic triumph at age of 50 years, 11 months earned him another place in the record books as the oldest player to win a major.
Though he arguably should have accomplished more with his immense skill set, Bubba Watson enjoys a place behind only Phil Mickelson in the pantheon of best left-handed golfers. Bubba has now moved on to LIV Golf, but he racked up 12 PGA Tour wins, including two Masters’ crowns (2012 and 2014). Three of his Tour triumphs were at the Travelers Championship. He reached a personal-best no. 2 spot in the world golf rankings in 2015. In 2018, the last year he won on the PGA Tour, Watson took home trophies at the Genesis LA Open, the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play, and the Travelers Championship. A fan favorite who wears his emotions on his sleeve, he also represented the U.S. at four Ryder Cups, two Presidents Cups, and the 2016 Rio Olympics. Bubba, who is a true left-hander, is famously self-taught. He learned the game as a kid by whacking a wiffle ball around his family’s household. Fellow players and fans marvel at his prodigious drives and outlandish shot-making ability. Watson’s skill at carving banana hooks and fades is uncanny. His big hook with a wedge from deep in the woods in the sudden-death playoff of the 2012 Masters stands out as one of the most memorable shots in golf history.
Mike Weir made history when he captured the 2003 Masters in a playoff and became the first Canadian and only the second left-handed golfer to win a major championship. Like so many Canadians, the right-handed Weir grew up playing hockey left-handed and simply followed his hockey inclinations when he started swinging a golf club. Even so, when he was 13 he sent a letter to Jack Nicklaus, his idol, asking if he should switch to playing right-handed. Fortunately, Nicklaus wrote back and advised Mike to stick to the swing that he was already using. Weir joined the PGA Tour in 1998 and won his first title in 1999 at the Air Canada Classic, making him the first Canadian to win a Tour title on home soil since 1952. In all, Mike won eight PGA Tour titles, tying George Knudson for the most wins in Tour history by a Canadian. Among his more notable victories were the 2000 World Golf Championships-American Express Championship and the 2001 Tour Championship. His blockbuster year was 2003, when he won three tournaments, including the Masters. Weir also competed in five President’s Cups (2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, and 2009). Since turning 50 in 2020, Weir has been playing on the PGA Tour Champions. His first win on the seniors circuit came in 2021. For his career accomplishments, Mike Weir is enshrined in Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame.
Though he is naturally right-handed, Bob Charles of New Zealand was golf’s first great left-handed golfer. Over a span of more than five decades, he blazed a trail for left-handed golfers all over the globe. Charles’s big breakthrough came in 1963. His victory at the Houston Open made him the first left-handed golfer to win a PGA Tour tournament, and he followed it up a few months later by winning the Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Annes. Though he will always be the answer to the trivia question “Who was the first left-handed golfer to win a major championship in golf?,” the globe-trotting Kiwi amassed a remarkable 79 career titles as a professional. Counted among his triumphs are six wins on the PGA Tour, four on the European Tour (now the DP World Tour), 23 on the PGA Tour Champions, and two Senior majors. Bob Charles added to his legendary status with his longevity and proficiency as a senior player. At the New Zealand Open in 2007, at age 71 and 261 days, he became the oldest player to make the cut on the European Tour, finishing in a tie for 23rd place. Even more remarkably, during a European Senior Tour tournament in 2012, when he was 76 years old, Charles shot a 66 to set the record for the most-strokes-below-age ever recorded on any professional tour.
The Best of the Rest—Steve Flesch
With four PGA Tour titles to his credit, Steve Flesch is the only other left-handed golfer to register more than two Tour victories. As a child, Steve initially picked up the game right-handed before he switched to his natural side. Following a standout collegiate career at the University of Kentucky, he turned pro in 1990 and toiled for years on a variety of tours. Flesch scored his first professional victory at the 1996 Malaysian Open. When he joined the PGA Tour in 1998 he earned the Rookie of the Year award. In 2007, Flesch’s best year on Tour, he won both the Turning Stone Resort Championship and the Reno-Tahoe Open. Since turning 50 in 2017, he has amassed three victories on the PGA Tour Champions. Honorable Mention—BRIAN HARMAN Brian Harman has two secured two PGA Tour wins and more than 30 top-five finishes since turning pro in 2009. He led the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills after 54 holes before finishing in a tie for second behind Brooks Koepka. Harman is one of just three PGA Tour players to record two holes-in-one in one round—a miraculous feat he accomplished at the 2015 Barclays at Plainfield Country Club in Edison, New Jersey. The odds of that happening are said to be 67 million to 1.
Honorable Mention—Russ Cochran
For a 12-year stretch beginning in 1980 Russ Cochran was the only left-handed player on the PGA Tour. His lone PGA Tour title came in 1991 at the Western Open when he made up seven strokes over the final eight holes to best Greg Norman. Since turning 50 in 2008, Cochran has amassed five victories on the PGA Tour Champions, highlighted by the 2011 Senior British Open, a senior major championship. Best Ladies Left-Handed Golfer—BONNIE BRYANT Bonnie Bryant enjoyed a professional golf career that earned her the title of the best left-handed ladies golfer of all time. With her victory in the 1974 Bill Branch LPGA Classic in Fort Myers, Florida, Bonnie is the only left-handed winner in the history of the LPGA. Also in 1974, Bryant finished in 10th place at the LPGA Championship (now the Women’s PGA Championship) and in a tie for 14th at the U.S. Women’s Open. She nearly captured a second LPGA Tour title in 1979 when she lost to eventual champion Nancy Lopez in a five-way playoff at the Coca-Cola Classic. What makes Bonnie Bryant’s achievements so remarkable is that she did not take up golf until she was 20 years old. Softball was her first love (she played for five years in the top women’s leagues), but she switched to golf as a way to make a living. Though she is naturally right-handed, Bonnie learned golf left-handed in an era when almost all female golfers played right-handed because she batted left-handed in softball. In 1971, just over seven years after she started playing golf, Bryant joined the LPGA Tour. For her career, she entered 257 LPGA Tournaments and finished in the top-10 19 times. Other than Bonnie, not a single left-handed golfer in the history of the LPGA entered more than 12 tournaments. With no lefties currently competing on the Tour, Bonnie Bryant’s distinction of being the LPGA’s only left-handed winner seems destined to last a while longer.