How the downfall of Tiger Woods is reminiscent of the great Seve Ballesteros.

Watching Tiger Woods at Valhalla, Paul Azinger found it difficult to observe what he described as “Vincent Van Gogh painting by numbers.”

Nick Faldo suggested the Tiger era is over. Yet after watching his old rival over two days, 36 holes and 148 mostly mediocre and sometimes shocking shots, Phil Mickelson said he “didn’t notice” (aye, right Phil) Woods’ physical, mental and technical discomfort while missing the cut by five shots.

Any or all might be true. But as that equally renowned (non) frequenter of the links Karl Marx was first to point out, history has a knack of repeating itself: “First as tragedy, second as farce.”

In other words, Woods appears to be morphing into a 21st-century version of the late Seve Ballesteros – and not in a good way.

The similarities are striking. Plagued by a perennially bad back, Ballesteros endured a slow, steady erosion of his physical capabilities that cruelly affected his ability to hit solid or straight shots.

Towards the end of his career, the great Spaniard was a pathetic sight. Only occasionally did he find a fairway with his driver and only by dint of a genius-level short game was he capable of breaking 80.

Woods, of course, hasn’t reached such a hapless stage. Not yet at least.

In fact, were it not for the stark deterioration in his once-peerless swing, it can be argued that a brace of 74s so soon after major back surgery represented no mean effort.

But there’s more going on here than a man searching for form or feel.

Sad to say when the individual in question has surely played the game better than anyone ever has, this is a golfer in terminal decline, both between his ears and from head to toe.

Most strikingly – and eerily reminiscent of Ballesteros –Woods appears to have contracted a virulent version of the driving yips.

With an iron in his hands, his swing has retained at least a semblance of its former power and rhythm.

But when the longest club in his bag is placed in his no-doubt sweaty palms, it’s anyone’s guess.

Faster, shorter and way more violent, it’s the anxiety-ridden action of someone who has lost control.

It remains to be seen how much longer Woods is prepared to tolerate that he’s no longer competitive at the highest level.

His priority (and hopefully the most straightforward) must be to regain full fitness.

Then, a series of prolonged practice sessions would seem to be in order.

The swing he has now is clearly not going to be successful. Assuming steps one and two have been negotiated successfully, there’s the not-insignificant matter of his seemingly frayed nerves when the pressure of tournament golf is upon him.

Woods has been seeing way more bad shots than good for a while now. The scar tissue has been growing exponentially.

When his emotional needle becomes fixed beyond “red for danger” on the dial, the scenario portends – yet again like Seve – an early retirement.

It’s said that every golfer only has so much fuel in the tank. Ever since the world began putting his genius under a microscope so long ago, Woods has used his with a riveting zeal.

But it has become clear that he’s almost out.