VALENCIA, Spain (Reuters) - It would be wrong to underestimate the United States Ryder Cup team because of the relatively poor form of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, according to former Europe captain Seve Ballesteros.
Ballesteros, who is recovering from surgery on a brain tumor, led Europe to victory in 1997 and his successor Colin Montgomerie and team will attempt to wrest the trophy back from the Americans at Celtic Manor in Wales starting on Friday.
"Tiger Woods has not been doing good this season and neither has Phil Mickelson," Ballesteros said on his website (www.seveballesteros.com) on Wednesday.
"For the public to see the seeming weakness of the U.S. stars could give the wrong idea that things could be easier for the Europeans," the five-times major winner added.
"That is a mistake. This is matchplay and this format is where anything can happen."
The ailing Ballesteros is unable to attend the competition but spoke to the European team by telephone on Wednesday, an experience Montgomerie said was "very motivational, very passionate, and also very sad."
The Spaniard, who was voted both Europe's best captain this week for his role at Valderrama 13 years ago and the team's best player, played in eight Ryder Cups and was a key figure in the team's development into a trophy-winning force.
He said Montgomerie was the best European captain the team could have.
"He has always been a true leader on and off the course," the 53-year-old said.
"He knows better than anyone else how to put on him all the pressure and free his players from it.
"Despite six rookies on the team, Monty has a very good, competitive and talented group of champions, and I am sure he will take the best options to lead the team and win this year's Ryder Cup. We are in good hands."
Ballesteros, who won the Open Championship three times, spoke of his affection for the British public.
"British people have always showed me a huge affection which is reciprocal.
"I really love them. It is an honor and it gives me strength to continue fighting for my health and trying to bring back the Ryder Cup to Madrid in 2018."
(Reporting by Iain Rogers, editing by Ossian Shine)