The time has come for someone to say no to Tiger Woods, if only to save him from himself. We are about to discover if Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson is that man. Paul Azinger, the only American skipper to have won golf's game of thrones this century, and without Tiger to boot, came out as a beacon of reason when he said yesterday that Woods was unselectable.
The golfer who "moves the needle" more than any other, is bereft of fitness and form. His return to golf after back surgery in April was clearly premature. Though the doctors gave him a clean bill of health, his body told him the truth on the final day at Akron, when he lost balance playing out of the rough and sent his back into spasm.
Just 72 hours later he declared himself fit to play at Valhalla. Thirty-six holes of major golf reinforced the evidence presented at Firestone Golf Club. Woods is neither use nor ornament in his present condition, and with no means to prove otherwise in a competitive environment should spare Watson the need to make a decision at all.
That is the view of Azinger. "It is difficult to watch Vincent van Gogh reduced to painting by numbers, but that is what we are seeing from Tiger. The biggest concern for me is that something is happening to the strongest mind golf has ever seen. You need your mind and body to be working in harmony, so even if Tiger gets his strength back quickly he still has to regain that mental toughness he was famous for. "
Watson must shake himself and his nation, Azinger apart, free of the attachment to the greatest golfer of the era and accept that for now at least, it is time to play with a different deck.
After shooting a second consecutive 74, a score that left him 15 shots adrift of the imperious Rory McIlroy at the top of the leaderboard, Woods said: "I tried as hard as I could. That's about all I got. Just didn't play well. A pair of 74s is not very good." And the back, Tiger, how was that? "It was sore. No doubt it was sore. Just had to play through it."