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Yes it's a cliché, but it's also the truth: Many times the Masters truly starts at the 10th tee on Sunday. So which Masters winner has had the best back nine ever? In an attempt to answer that question, we've dissected two of the finest closing efforts by a champion—the mythic dash by 46-year-old Jack Nicklaus to his record 18th and last major championship, in 1986, and the sizzling comeback by Phil Mickelson for his first major title, on a newly lengthened Augusta National course, in 2004.
In '86, Nicklaus was five back after shooting a one-under 35 on the front side, but then he birdied the 10th and 11th to jump into contention. After a bogey at the 12th, a birdie at the 13th and a par at 14, Nicklaus elicited deafening roars when he first drained a 12-foot putt for eagle at 15 and then when he birdied 16. When Nicklaus slipped in an 11-footer for the clinching birdie at 17 and pointed his oversized MacGregor Response ZT putter toward the heavens, the ground shook.
Mickelson was 33 and without a Grand Slam title entering the '04 Masters. The course he played was 385 yards longer (270 on the back side) than the one Nicklaus conquered. After a wobbly two-over 38 on the front, Mickelson caught fire. Starting at 12, he birdied four of the next five holes to pull even with Ernie Els. Mickelson capped his epic comeback by sinking an 18-footer at the last to become only the fourth player to win the Masters with a birdie on the 72nd hole.
JACK VERSUS PHIL
Both final nines were brilliant, but which was best: Nicklaus's 30 in 1986 or Mickelson's 31 in 2004?
JACK Follow the red lines for Nicklaus
PHIL Follow the blue lines for Mickelson