Have we come to the end of the Tiger Woods era? No.
Are we watching the beginning of a part of Woods' career in which he won't be the central figure every time he tees it up in a major championship? I don't think there's any doubt.
To those Tiger Woods fans who will strenuously object to that assertion, especially based on his five-win season a year ago, take a moment to look at the big picture.
The man has had a remarkable career. He'll go down in history as the second-best golfer to have ever played the game—behind Jack Nicklaus and his 18 majors, of course.
But due to an unusual collection of circumstances—injuries, a chaotic personal life situation and his advancing age—Woods hasn't won a major title since 2008, when he won the U.S. Open on a fractured leg and blown-up knee.
The first and the third of those circumstances go hand in hand, in my opinion. Woods had one of the most powerful swings in the history of the game as he dominated the first decade of the 2000s. With all of the torque he created, his body was stressed and eventually neck, elbow, wrist, knee, back and Achilles heel injuries began to happen.
So while 38 is not necessarily old—Nicklaus won the 1986 Masters at age 46—that number takes on a different connotation when all of his injuries are factored in.
But because he is Tiger Woods and he has accomplished some unbelievable things in his career, it would be foolish to give him no chance going forward.
As a matter of fact, we should all be exercising a fair amount of caution in making judgments in this instance.
The man had back surgery in March, rehabbed until July, played two rounds of golf at the Quicken Loans National and showed up at The Open Championship three weeks later. After four rounds and a 69th-place finish at Royal Liverpool, the writing off of Woods has begun in earnest.
Was he rusty? Absolutely. Did he look like he had never swung a driver before? Absolutely.
But let's look at the big picture again. Woods got through those six rounds of golf pain-free, and that's a major accomplishment. Do you remember seeing him hit shots at Doral then doubling over in pain and hobbling on to the next shot?
If those painful days are gone for now, that at least establishes some sort of a base to return to something close to what he was in 2013.
Six rounds of competitive golf is hardly a litmus test as to what might be with Woods and his golf swing.
That test won't come until Woods gets several more rounds of golf in under the gun, and then the biggest test for him will be when he gets into a major and Friday turns into Saturday. The weekends of majors used to be Woods' playground.
If he got to the final 36 of a major with the lead, turn out the lights because the party's over, excepting Y.E. Yang's five-wood in the 2009 PGA Championship at Hazeltine.
But that was then. This is now.
Woods is now into his seventh year since nailing down a major title. That's a long time without one, circumstances or not.
His problem now is not only getting back into contention in a major, but if and when he does, will he be able to handle the increased quality of competition that has become part of the PGA Tour since 2008?
I'm not willing to write Woods off totally yet. If he's healthy and if the rust he's experiencing can be knocked off, he can still be dangerous. He could catch a week where his putter works better than it normally does and could find himself in the hunt.
But the days of debating Woods and his chase of Jack Nicklaus' 18 major victories are over. Woods might win another major, but he won't get close enough to make the Golden Bear nervous in South Florida.
The other thing to consider is Woods' mental attitude. At no time in 2014 has Woods looked like he's enjoying the game while playing it. Of course when you're hurting and can't perform like you normally do, that might take some of the fun away.
But maybe if he's not into the game as much anymore, that might be an indicator of his mindset going forward.
Don't count him out, but don't put great expectations on him either.
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