By Adam Hoge–

CHICAGO (WSCR) When Tiger Woods withdrew from the The Players Championship Thursday morning after shooting a 6-over 42 on just nine holes, I finally reached a conclusion I never thought I would reach this soon:

The Tiger Woods Era is over.

That’s not to say he will never win again. He may even win a couple more majors. After all, he just finished fourth at Augusta last month.

But Tiger is once again facing an injury to his left knee, the same one that was surgically repaired after his heroic U.S. Open win in 2008. He’s already undergone four knee surgeries, an alarming number for a 35-year old golfer.

Tiger is getting old and if you haven’t noticed, an exciting young crop of talent is taking over the golf world while Woods misses tournament after tournament.

There’s little doubt Tiger’s absence this weekend at Sawgrass will hurt ratings and attendance. He’s more than a golfer and has been for quite some time. I’m not suggesting we ignore the biggest story in golf, which he is whether he plays or not.

But it’s time for Tiger’s fans to move on and appreciate the new guys. Woods’ absence has hurt golf for over a year now, but that’s because people can’t accept that he probably won’t ever be the guy he used to be. Even if he comes back and wins a tournament or two, so what? That just puts him on the same level as golf’s current leading players. What made Tiger so special was the fact he won 97 tournaments in just over a decade. When a guy that good suddenly doesn’t win for over a year and half, it’s not just a coincidence. It’s evidence that the good days are over.

Tiger still needs five major championships to pass Jack Nicklaus’ record of 18 major wins. The likelihood of Tiger reaching that mark diminishes after each and every missed tournament. It’s been nearly three years since he won his last major. How is he supposed to win five more?

Golf needs its fans to move on. There is plenty of exciting young talent that gets ignored every time you turn off the television just because Tiger isn’t playing. Bubba Watson, Dustin Johnson, Ricky Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Graeme McDowell, Matt Kuchar… the list goes on and on.

Oh, and there’s a guy by the name of Phil Mickelson who is still pretty good at golf.

So do yourself a favor and just assume Tiger is done. If he comes back and dominates again, well that’s just an added bonus. In the meantime, you’ll realize golf was exciting before Tiger and will continue to be after Tiger.

Do you agree with Adam? Post your comments below.

Adam Hoge

Adam regularly covers the White Sox, Blackhawks and college sports for The Score and is the Executive Producer of Hit & Run on Sunday mornings. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHoge670 and read more of his blogs here.