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Mickelson believes Woods is nearly back

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LEMONT, Ill. – Tiger Woods was officially eliminated from the FedEx Cup Playoffs Sunday, but the closest player to being his rival says the world No. 1 is closer than people think to a return to form.

“I think he is inches away from being there,” Phil Mickelson said after outplaying Woods in their Sunday pairing at the BMW Championship. “You can tell he’s very close.”

Mickelson shot a 4-under-par 67 to Woods’ 70. Woods has gotten the best of Mickelson just once the last eight times they’ve been paired together. Mickelson evened his head-to-head record against Woods to 11-11-4.

“You can tell he is inches away from turning,” Mickelson said. “His speed is back. His putting looks great.”

Woods, who won the FedEx Cup two of its first three seasons, was projected to finish 42nd in FedEx Cup points when he signed his scorecard Sunday. Only the top 30 advance to East Lake in Atlanta. It means Woods failed to qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time in his 14 seasons on the PGA Tour. He missed the event in ’06 citing fatigue after the Ryder Cup. He missed in ’08 recovering from knee surgery.

Woods has now officially gone a year without a PGA Tour title. His last victory came at last year’s BMW Championship. This is looking like it will be the first winless PGA Tour season of his career. He’ll get a last chance to win a PGA Tour-sanctioned event at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in November.

“I turned my round around today,” Woods said before departing Cog Hill.

Woods’ final round pretty much mirrored his season. He didn’t look good most of Sunday but rallied to birdie three of the final five holes.

“I got to keep fighting, got to keep battling” Woods said. “I did that all day.”

Woods will get two weeks of rest before teeing it up in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor in Wales. His schedule the rest of the year includes the HSBC Champions in China in Nov. 4-7, the Australian Masters Nov. 11-14 and the Chevron World Challenge Dec. 2-5.