Tiger era over? Donald thinks so

The “Tiger Era” in golf is over.

So says world No. 1, Luke Donald.

“Even though Tiger’s only 35,” the Englishman says, “there are a lot of young guys coming up; Rory McIlroy and Keegan Bradley and a bunch of others.

“I would assume a new era is upon us.”

There will be those who disagree with Donald, or at least think it’s too soon to conclude, and others still who’ll roll their eyes at the temerity of a paper No. 1 with no majors and three PGA Tour wins sounding the death knell for a champion with 14 majors and 71 Tour victories.

But, privately, I’ve heard many of Woods’ peers share Donald’s views.

Whether out of respect or because they fear Woods’ elephantine memory — like his “big brother”, Michael Jordan, he neither forgets nor forgives slights — few have been willing to say so on the record.

But the more Woods falls toward deconstruction rather than reconstruction, the louder the chorus predicting his demise will become.

Last week, Nick Faldo went as far as suggesting that Woods would never win another major.

“I do, personally, believe that," he told an English newspaper, "I was one of the few guys that said it right after (the sex scandal) happened and he was trying to get back to the Masters last year.

“It’s now two seasons. It’s not like it’s been two months. Two seasons of golf have gone by. He hasn’t been in a comfortable mode for two years.

Faldo points to what others have seen, too: that Woods is a shell of the player he was because his aura’s been diminished by the humiliation he felt when his dirty laundry was exposed.

“Mentally, he’s actually a pretty sensitive guy,” he said. "He’s very sensitive to any comments or criticisms that we have.”

Indeed, in the past 22 months, Woods has gone from someone who rarely read anything written about him to looking not just at the wild stories but scouring the comments left on tabloid blogs.

And that can’t be healthy.

Webb Simpson, the religious young North Carolinian who’s leading the FedEx Cup playoff race that resumes at the BMW Championship in Chicago this week, was so taken aback by tweets left on his Twitter account that he’s no longer reading them.

“There’s a lot of negativity,” said Simpson, “People saying really mean things.”

Unlike Faldo, Donald isn’t writing Woods off entirely.

“I would imagine he’ll win again,” he says, “I’m just not sure he’ll dominate."

But he agrees that the past two years have taken too great a toll on Woods.

“When you get that combination of injury plus the scandal that went on, mentally that’s quite scarring,” he says.

“That’s a lot to take, even for someone with one of the strongest minds in golf.

“Between the ears it’s very much a confidence sport. If you lose that in any way it’s going to be very tough.

“It hasn’t helped that he hasn’t been physically fit and hasn’t been playing.”

Woods hasn’t won since before the details of his secret adulterous lifestyle were made public in November, 2009.

He’s only played six-and-a-half competitive rounds since April because of injuries to his left leg, failed to qualify for the FedEx Cup playoffs and won’t play again until October, where he’s scheduled to compete at the second-tier Frys.com Open outside of San Jose.

After that, he’ll play on back-to-back November weeks in Australia, starting with the Australian Open in Sydney. Then, he’ll play the Presidents Cup in Melbourne, where Fred Couples has already, somewhat contentiously, made Woods one of his two captain’s picks.

Next year’s Ryder Cup captain, Davis Love III, thinks Woods just needs to get back to playing regularly to make his team.

“I played with him at the PGA (where Woods missed the cut),” said Love.

“And it just looks like he needs to play some tournaments.

“I don’t think it’s anything more than that. If he plays a little more, he’ll be fine.

“I don’t have any doubt that if he plays a full schedule, he will make the team.”

Meanwhile, Woods will need some help just to make it into the field at his own tournament, the Chevron Challenge, to be held at Sherwood Country Club outside of Los Angeles in December.

Although the tournament has two invitations it can extend in the 18-man field, the caveat is that they must go to players ranked inside the world top 50 by next Monday.

Woods, who spent a record 623 weeks ranked at no. 1, has fallen to 46th.