Newport: The poor form of the world`s top two ranked players Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson should be a cause for concern for US Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin, top Spanish player Jose Maria Olazabal said on Tuesday three days away from the start of the biennial event.
Woods has struggled all year ever since the sex scandal broke which eventually resulted in a costly divorce, but he earned a captain`s pick from Pavin for an event where he has rarely seemed at ease.
Mickelson started the season in great shape winning the Masters for the third time, but in the past two months with the opportunity to replace Woods as world number one his form has fallen away.
Olazabal, who is not playing here but played in seven Ryder Cups forming an electric partnership with compatriot Seve Ballesteros, said that how they played here at the Celtic Manor course could be pivotal as to whether the Americans retain the Cup and record their first victory on European soil since 1993.
"Tiger and Phil are not playing at their best and that is going to be a question mark," the 44-year-old two-time Masters champion told Metro newspaper.
Olazabal, whose form has faded away as he has battled against rheumatism and tendinitis over recent years, pinpointed veteran American Jim Furyk as being capable of leading the team as he comes in on the back of winning last weekend`s USPGA Tour Championship, which saw him move to number five in the world.
"Look at the weekend - Jim Furyk won the Tour Championship, played extremely well, solid, and played well all year long," said Olazabal, who won 18 of his 31 Ryder Cup matches losing just eight.
"He is the kind of player that represents the US team.”
"Solid, steady, with a good short game."
For his part Olazabal - a vice-captain two years ago under the disastrous captaincy of Sir Nick Faldo which saw the Americans ease to a 16 1/2 to 11 1/2 victory - believes the European team lacks the star names of the past but has its own qualities.
"I don`t know if it`s the strongest European team ever," said Olazabal, who has made no secret he would like to captain the Ryder Cup team in 2012.
"At one point we had the top players in the world in the team with me, Bernhard (Langer), Sandy (Lyle), Seve and Ian (Woosnam).”
"But it is true there is more depth to this team.”
"Even though we have six rookies in the team, they have proven how good they are, especially this year, under pressure, and that is a good sign for Europe."