It’s fair to say that Garrick Higgo, now a three-time European Tour winner, as are Tim Clark, Brandon Stone, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Hennie Otto and Thomas Aiken, is on a one-way ticket to fame and fortune, writes Gary Lemke.
It’s fair to say that the South African, now a three-time European Tour winner, as are Tim Clark, Brandon Stone, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Hennie Otto and Thomas Aiken, is on a one-way ticket to fame and fortune.
He’s also a left-hander, and when he won in the Canary Islands he moved past two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson in the world rankings of the ‘lefties’. Higgo was now, officially, the second-best left-handed player in the world.
Ahead of him lies only the American Brian Harman, a two-time winner on the PGA Tour, and at No 48 on the list.
As the expression about London buses goes, you wait for ages for one and then two come along. Suddenly, Harman, Higgo and Watson were within eight positions of one another on the World Ranking ladder, three ‘lefties’ in close proximity in a sport dominated by right-handers.
Of course, Phil Mickelson still sets the standard for lefties on Tour. Although about 10% of the world’s population is left-handed, only about five players on the PGA Tour are, and Mickelson, a 43-time PGA Tour winner and five-time Major champion, is the honorary king.
Higgo is catching the eye not only for his calmness behind those sunglasses, but also the manner in which he went about his business with a tie-4th, a tie-8th and two wins on the European Tour in the space of four weeks in April/May.
He moved up to third on the list of South Africans, behind only Louis Oosthuizen and Bezuidenhout and put himself firmly in the conversation for a spot at the Tokyo Olympics (the top two from the country will be invited).
But this conversation is about left-handers. In cricket, the old-timers will tell you that some of the most aesthetically-pleasing cover drives have been from left-handed batsmen. Sir Garfield Sobers, Graeme Pollock, Brian Lara … all at the top of the pile when it comes to eye candy, watching the batsman caress the ball to the fence.
In golf it doesn’t work that way.
When people talk about the ‘best swings’ in the game it’s usually Ernie Els, Fred Couples, Louis Oosthuizen, Adam Scott and Rory McIlroy who have their names mentioned and it’s difficult to argue that.
A lefty doesn’t look as smooth in their swing, although as the likes of Mickelson, Watson and now Higgo are showing, that’s no boundary to success.
It could be argued, however, that golf courses are set up in favour of the right-handers. From the out-of-bounds areas to the greenside bunkers, courses do tend to help the right-handers who fade the ball. Those, basically, are most low-scoring right-handers.
An exception, though, is Augusta National, home to The Masters. Mickelson has won three times there, Watson twice and Mike Weir once. Interestingly, The Masters can favour a left-hander’s game, because there are many doglegs on the golf course and they turn left. That means the right-hander has to draw the ball, while the left-hander can fade it. And, as we’ve said, a fade comes naturally to top golfers, irrespective of their style.
Which is just one of the reasons I’m so excited about Higgo’s rise. Now that he’s getting within touching distance of the world’s top 50, if his dream run continues he will not only be looking at a ticket to the big events on the men’s Tour, but perhaps also an invite to the most hallowed locker room in the game – Augusta National.
This column appears in the print issue of Compleat Golfer from June 2021