Woods woes deepen ahead of USPGA
Jack Nicklaus said in May that Corey Pavin "would need a brain scan" if he left Tiger Woods out of the US Ryder Cup team.
Now you could argue the American skipper needs his head examining if he does pick the world number one.
Woods's dismal finish at the WGC event in Ohio at the weekend - a final-round 77 dropping him to second last in the 80-man field - suggests the American's game, as well as his private life, is in free fall.
Tiger Woods had a weekend to forget at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio
With his once impregnable mask of invincibility lying in a heap of dust around his feet, Woods finds himself alongside Michael Schumacher and Lance Armstrong as former greats looking a shadow of their former selves. At least they can use age as an excuse.
Woods is now 10th in the US Ryder Cup standings, with the top eight at the end of the USPGA on Sunday receiving automatic spots. He will probably have to finish inside the first eight at Whistling Straits to squeeze into the team. If not, it's up to Pavin, who will name his four wildcards on 7 September.
The skipper will make his choices based on a wide range of factors, not just one poor tournament. But Woods's form, allied to the ongoing turmoil at home following his marital infidelities, a less than stellar Ryder Cup record (10 wins, 13 losses, two halves) and the need for a harmonious US camp suggest Pavin might prefer to go with a team of hungry young guns, marshalled by Phil Mickelson.
Woods, remember, was sidelined after knee surgery for the 2008 event at Valhalla and the US won for the first time in nine years.
At the Masters in April, Woods was asked about playing in the Ryder Cup. "Would I like to play in it? If I qualify," he said. At Firestone last week, he avoided committing himself to taking up a wildcard, three times batting away the question with the stock answer: "I'm planning on playing my way into the team."
That's hardly the talk of someone with a burning ambition to play, in stark contrast to many of his young compatriots who are sounding positively European in their drive to make a Ryder Cup team.
Now, the 14-time major champion may have a ready excuse to swerve the event. "I would not help the team if I was playing like this," said Woods, who has never really loved the Ryder Cup. It's a tricky situation though - if he is found to have twisted Pavin's arm to leave him out, it would put another huge dent in his already fragile public image.
None of us can know what's going on in Woods's head, but trying to be a good father to his two children while his marriage lies in tatters can't help with the focus, either on the golf course or on the practice range.
In statistical terms this season, Woods ranks 163rd in driving accuracy, 166th in greens in regulation and 129th in putts per round.
Former coach Butch Harmon (left), now with Phil Mickelson, says Woods "looks lost"
Woods's scrambling and his ability to sink crucial putts - for par as well as birdies - have been the hallmarks of his greatness over the years. Now, he just can't get the ball in the hole.
His determination to keep plugging away is commendable but Woods is competing without a coach after Hank Haney quit in May, and another former coach Butch Harmon - now with arch-rival Mickelson - says Woods "looks lost".
"Tiger Woods right now is playing the worst I've ever seen him play," said Harmon.
"He has got to get his head right; he's got to get his life in order before he can even think about playing golf."
Woods likened his current struggles to the period after the Masters in 1997 when he remodelled his swing under Harmon, but admitted it is worse than his previous "slump" in 2003 before he began working with Haney.
"I think I can turn it round," he said on Sunday, before adding wistfully, "but it's been a long year."
We mustn't get too carried away writing off Woods. Mickelson carded an even worse final round in Ohio - a 78, including a front nine of 41. Sometimes you have to take the rough with the smooth.
Also, the WGC event featured no cut - ordinarily, Woods would have just missed the weekend, a minor indignity compared to the headline-grabbing record-worst finish.
Mickelson's collapse meant he missed the chance to overtake Woods as world number one, but he can do so again at Whistling Straits if results go his way, as can world number four Steve Stricker. Lee Westwood, ranked third, is missing with a calf injury.
Despite Woods's woes, he has finished fourth in two majors this year and fired a stunning third-round 66 in the US Open at Pebble Beach, a glimpse of the charging Tiger of old.
So it seems that at the moment we just don't know which Tiger Woods is going to turn up. Terminal decline, or minor blip? Perhaps Pavin is not willing to take that risk.