Tiger Woods out of FedEx Cup finale

Updated: September 13, 2010, 12:12 AM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

LEMONT, Ill. -- Tiger Woods' FedEx Cup season ended Sunday with little fanfare, save for the drama that accompanies a round with Phil Mickelson.

The final round of the BMW Championship saw Tiger and Lefty paired together. Mickelson got the best of Woods, shooting a 4-under 67 to Woods' 1-under 70, at Cog Hill.

It was the first time the top two players in the world played in the same group this year. They had not played together since last November in China at the HSBC Champions, a tournament Mickelson won.

The last time they were paired together in the United States was at the 2009 Masters, where they played a riveting duel but finished behind tournament champion Angel Cabrera.

I've played better than I have all this year. But it is what it is. I didn't qualify, and since I'm at home it also gives me two weeks to practice and prepare.

-- Tiger Woods

Sunday's pairing had little of that aura. Both players were seemingly out of contention and it was clear early that Woods would not be able to muster a low enough round to advance to the Tour Championship, where the top 30 in the FedEx Cup standings will play at East Lake in Atlanta starting Sept. 23.

"Obviously I would rather be there,'' Woods said after his tie for 15th in the tournament left him 42nd in FedEx Cup points. "I've played better than I have all this year. But it is what it is. I didn't qualify, and since I'm at home it also gives me two weeks to practice and prepare.''

Woods' reference was to the Ryder Cup, which begins Oct. 1 in Wales. Two of his U.S. teammates -- at-large picks Rickie Fowler and Stewart Cink -- also failed to advance to Atlanta.

The other nine members of the team will be at East Lake, led by Matt Kuchar, who is first in FedEx Cup points. Dustin Johnson, Steve Stricker, Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson, Zach Johnson and Jeff Overton are all eligible for the FedEx Cup finale.

Despite a final-round 77, Bo Van Pelt snagged the final spot in the Tour Championshp, edging Bill Haas. Fowler, who shot a 73, was 32nd in points. Charlie Wi, who was in contention Sunday before a final-round 74, tied for eighth and dropped out of the top 30 to 33rd.

The only European Ryder Cup team member to advance was Luke Donald, as Rory McIlroy finished 36th and Ian Poulter, with a final-round 75, ended up 39th. A couple of Europeans who were not picked by captain Colin Montgomerie, Paul Casey and Justin Rose, also made the 30-man field in Atlanta, where Mickelson will defend his title.

Mickelson, who struggled to score during the first three rounds of the tournament and was among several players who criticized the redesign of the Cog Hill course, saved his best for last.

It didn't hurt that he was paired with Woods. They have now been grouped together 26 times in PGA Tour-sanctioned events, and Mickelson evened up their head-to-head record at 11-11-4.

Mickelson has now gone 6-1-1 in their past eight meetings and Woods has not fared better since the second round of the 2008 U.S. Open.

"I enjoy it,'' said Mickelson, who tied for eighth at the BMW. "He certainly brings the best out in me. That wasn't the case earlier on. But I feel like he gets the best out of me now.''

There wasn't a whole lot of banter between the two, but Mickelson said they did briefly discuss the Ryder Cup and how "we're both looking forward to going over there.''

And despite Woods being 3-over par through 8 holes -- he was 4 over for the last 10 -- Mickelson does not believe Woods' game is far off.

"I think his game is inches from being there,'' Mickelson said. "His speed is back. He's solid, very close. He's hitting shots. He didn't pull off a few today, but he hit a lot of good shots there coming in.

"He made a couple of bogeys and followed up with a number of birdies there toward the end. But you can tell that his game is like inches from turning because his speed is back and his putter looks great. I mean, his game is not that far off at all. It looks very close to being right there.''

This will be the first time since turning pro at the end of 1996 that Woods will miss a tournament because he was not eligible. But it is the third time in the last five years that he will not be at the Tour Championship.

Woods skipped it in 2006, then won the FedEx Cup in 2007 and 2009. He missed the Tour Championship in 2008 due to injury.

And unless he is able to win the HSBC Champions in China, he will go an entire year not winning a PGA Tour-sanctioned event for the first time in his pro career.

As is his custom, Woods chose to look at the positives of the situation. He will use the next two weeks to work on his game, the first extended time he will have at home since starting work with instructor Sean Foley at the PGA Championship.

"I can practice at home with Sean in peace and away from everybody and put some work in and also work on my short game and my putting, things I have not been able to do out here,'' he said "It'll be nice to work on all these little things and concentrate on my game a little bit more and sharpen up, be ready come Friday [of the Ryder Cup]."

Bog Harig is a golf writer for ESPN.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com

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