Phil Mickelson is right-handed, but not on the golf course. He learned to play the game that has made him famous left-handed. However, on a recent tour of Gillette Stadium with six of his Ryder Cup teammates, he proved that he could chip right or left-handed and still win.
A pin was set up in the midfield and since team captain, Davis Love III, happened to have his right-handed clubs with him, that’s what they used. No one expected Mickelson to win, but that’s just what he did when he chipped the ball four feet from the pin, closer than anyone else. Mickelson told ESPN, “Honestly, it’s just not that hard to play golf right-handed…I think the real challenge and enjoyment I get is from trying to play the game left-handed.”
Mickelson will be put to task this Friday as part of a Ryder Cup Task Force, assembled after so many US losses in the past. “I think it’s a great opportunity for us to do something special,” Mickelson said on Sunday. “We have been given, for the first time in 20 years that I’ve been involved in the Ryder Cup, actual input, actual say, kind of ownership, if you will, of the Ryder Cup. And all the players feel like they’re involved and listened to.”
So, will all that input lead to more putts on the green? That remains to be seen. If nothing else, it is getting the players to think more about their strategy and playing. Perhaps that’s why playing left-handed benefits Mickelson, who is known as “Lefty” on the course. The right and left sides of the brain are responsible for different jobs. If you’re right-handed, the left side of the brain controls the action. When you switch to left-handed, you are making your brain function back to front so the right side is now controlling the action. It actually changes the neural pathways in the brain.
Many right-handed golfers will actually practice left-handed to improve their right-hand stroke. For example, when you change to left-handed putting, the stronger right hand becomes the lead hand in the putting stroke. The more passive left hand just follows along. The pulling motion of the leading right hand promotes a smoother more gradually accelerating putting stroke. There is very little or no hit coming from the left hand during the stroke. Everyone’s left-handed stroke is so smooth that many have an initial tendency to leave some putts short. They are waiting for the hit impulse, which never comes. Slightly firming up your grip or just swinging a little harder easily cures this.
Another benefit of learning to putt left-handed is that most right-handed golfers are right eye dominant. When you set up to putt left-handed the dominant right eye has an unobstructed view of the hole. This helps most right eye dominant player’s ability to see the line and the hole. There is also evidence to suggest that putting left-handed can cure a case of the yips. Next time you have the yips, try switching hands. In fact, changing from a right-handed to a left-handed stroke can often be a game-saving strategy.
As Mickelson and his Task Force hit the course this Friday, all eyes will be on the US. Hopefully “Lefty” pulls through for the team and their Ryder Cup losing streak will become a thing of the past.