Don't end the Tiger Woods era ... yet

And when might (or should) we see Tiger next on the course?

Updated: August 4, 2014, 12:06 PM ET
ESPN.com

Could two of golf's superstars have been going in any more different directions at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational? Tiger Woods headed to the parking lot injured while Rory McIlroy -- eventually -- got there with his trophy.

So does one player's rise and another's demise on one day in Ohio mean the end of an era and the start of a new one?

Our scribes dive into those topics and more in the latest edition of Four-Ball.

1. Fact or fiction: The Tiger era is over and the Rory McIlroy era has begun.

Michael Collins, ESPN.com senior golf analyst: Fiction. But if McIlroy wins the PGA Championship for three in a row, two of which were majors, then yes.

Farrell Evans, ESPN.com senior golf writer: Fact. It's McIlroy's time to define greatness for his generation. But his emergence doesn't mark a complete break from Tiger, whose presence will loom over the tour as long as he plays full time.

Bob Harig, ESPN.com senior golf writer: What's an era? We don't know for sure that Tiger is done, but clearly Rory is in position to dominate the game for years to come, especially when you consider he is just 25. He's got plenty of years ahead of him. But it is too soon to write off Tiger, despite the major setback he suffered Sunday.

Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN.com senior national columnist: Fiction. Not the McIlroy part; he isn't going anywhere, except to No. 1 in the world rankings. But I'm not ready to declare that the Tiger era is officially complete. If -- and there are no guarantees, especially given what happened to Woods during his Sunday round -- his back can hold up, then I still believe Tiger will piece together his game again and challenge for majors. I won't start the clock on his post-back operation until January 2015.

2. More impressive, that McIlroy overcame a 3-shot deficit to win Sunday or that he won in his first event after taking a major?

Collins: Winning the first event after a major, even after only one week off. It just shows the maturity Rory has and the ability to compartmentalize all things golf.

Evans: It's not surprising on either account. McIlroy is playing the best golf of his career. He's driving the ball great and hitting his approach shots close to the hole. So there are no physical or mental hurdles keeping him from performing at a high level every time he tees it up.

Harig: First event after a major. Rory seemed poised to make a comeback. He loves playing aggressively, and that suited him beautifully. But winning this week? Nobody would have been bothered if he had a bit of trouble getting focused after such a big win at the Open.

Wojciechowski: This is an easy one: following up his Open Championship with the win at Akron. So many times you see players suffer a letdown after a major victory. McIlroy continues to sharpen his game and beat a world-class field to do it.


3. Fact or fiction: Tiger will not play competitively again until after the Ryder Cup.

Collins: Fact, or he risks ruining the end of his career. And for what? Awesome you proved everyone wrong about when you could come back. Do you need Dr. Phil to ask, "How's that working out for ya?"

Evans: Fact. Shutting it down to get fully healed is the best-case scenario for the rest of his career.

Harig: Fact. He will likely see how he feels this week and confer with doctors, but given how he looked Sunday in trying to get off the course, it would be a surprise. And if he doesn't play the PGA, where else will he play?

Wojciechowski: Until we know the full extent of his injury, I'm not sure how to answer this. Clearly, Woods wants to play in majors and in the Ryder Cup. If physically able to play, he'll continue to tee it up. If you judged his immediate golf future by the way he looked after injuring his back Sunday, the guess would be, no, he's done until after the Ryder Cup.


4. Which player (not named Tiger) has the most to prove this week to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team?

Collins: Brandt Snedeker. A top-five finish would force Tom Watson to consider him for the team because of his experience (good and bad) from Medinah.

Evans: Brendon Todd. The 29-year-old former Georgia Bulldog is 11th in the standings after a win and six other top-10s. A top-10 at Valhalla would probably lock up his chances of making his first Ryder Cup team. Otherwise, there are too many better credentialed players behind him in the standings that Watson will likely choose ahead of him.

Harig: Keegan Bradley. He might not make it on points, but a tie for fourth at the Bridgestone was a big help in his bid for a captain's pick. Another strong week at the PGA and it would be hard to leave such a fiery player off the team.

Wojciechowski: I would have put Keegan Bradley and Phil Mickelson on the must-prove short list, but both are coming off strong finishes at the Bridgestone Invitational. Patrick Reed also helped his cause. So it's a coin flip between Brendon Todd and Chris Kirk.

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