It is long rumored that Ben Hogan had a secret that made him such a great golfer. Arguments have raged on for years what it was. Most people now agree his secret was really just hard work.
I too have found a secret. My secret is how to win the Masters.
You think I am crazy right? I'm not. I have figured it out. If you want to win at Augusta you need to be a really long-hitting left-handed golfer. Sure, it is not easy to become that, but if you do your odds for winning shift overwhelmingly in your favor. Consider the last few winners at Augusta: the majority of them are lefties. Mostly Phil and Bubba, but we can throw a Mike Weir in there also.
Phil has won three, Bubba now has two, and Mike Weir has one. Since 2003, six of the last eleven winners are left handed. The odds are way against that happening and if you look to any other course you cannot find such good odds for a lefty. My friend and I will occasionally argue that a hole sets up better for a lefty or a right handed golfer and it is hard to argue against the idea that Augusta just sets up better for left-handed golfers. With Bubba's recent win I have myself questioning whether he has been right all along.
As an engineer, I always want to know the reason for situations such as this where the odds so uniquely favor a golfing type such as a left handed player. Is it because the course has more holes where you need to play it with a certain type of shot, like a fade or draw? I guess there are a number of the critical holes where a lefty's cut is more helpful, but that is not concrete enough. Many right-handed golfers are very adept at hitting a draw, plus most professional golfers I watch have very little curve on the ball anyway. Sure, Bubba is unique in that way, but today's golf ball just doesn't move as much as those from previous generations. So I just find all of this very baffling.
Could it be that Phil and Bubba are just great golfers and they like Augusta? Sure, but three of Phil's five majors are at Augusta. Bubba only has two majors and they both have come at Augusta. Plus as I mentioned earlier, no other course has a track record of having so many left-handed winners in comparison to the field. So you can argue that they are great golfers but because Augusta is so beneficial for left handers that they gain a small advantage over the field.
The case that helps the first hypothesis that it just sets up better for lefties is boosted significantly by the win from Mike Weir. He is not overly long and not a holder of multiple majors in different locations such as Phil. He has a few other PGA Tour wins but none as noteworthy as the Masters. The interesting footnote on Weir is in 2014 he performed decently at Augusta at a time when his game has not impressed anywhere else. For me, this means that even with his B (or even C depending on who you ask) he can compete at Augusta because it is so well set up for lefties.
It seems that if I were building a golfer that could win at Augusta he would start by being left handed. It would help if he were long. With the changes that Augusta has made in the past few years it has become a bombers paradise unless the weather conditions are different that in an average year. A very good, but not overly fantastic short game and putter. Bubba and Phil are not fantastic putters, good, but far from the best. Phil is fantastic around the greens with a wedge and Bubba is fair. They need to love hitting the driver. Bubba is one of the best drivers of the ball of this generation and Phil when he is winning drives it decently as well. The talking heads on the Golf Channel are always saying that putting is the great differentiator at Augusta but I would argue it is won on the tee boxes. He would also be a very good long iron player. He would need to hit the par fives in two and most of those would be hit with a long to mid iron.
If I were to rank my golfer, I would put driving first, long iron play second, and playing left-handed third. I am surprised I would even add that as a requirement. But one cannot argue with the success the lefties have had there.
What do you think? Do you think Augusta is now a left-hander's paradise?
Photo credits: © Timothy A Clary.