VIRGINIA WATER, England (AP) — Luke Donald shot a 7-under 64 on Thursday to take the lead in the suspended first round of the BMW PGA Championship, leaving him eight stroke ahead of No. 1 Lee Westwood in their battle for the top spot in the world ranking.
Donald mastered the wet and windy conditions on Wentworth’s West Course to match his lowest European Tour round. He had five birdies in a seven-hole stretch and finished with eight birdies and a bogey.
“That was probably one of the best rounds I’ve ever played,” said Donald, the runner-up last year. “It was tough conditions out there. The wind was swirling. There was some rain showers, and this isn’t an easy course in the best of conditions. I was just seeing the shots and was able to hit them.”
The second-ranked Englishman needs to outperform Westwood to take the top spot.
“The goal is to try and win this event, and if I finish ahead of Lee, then great,” Donald said.
Matteo Manassero, the Italian star who became the youngest winner on the European Tour at 17 years, 188 days last October, shot a 66 to tie for second with Sweden’s Johan Edfors.
Play was interrupted for 36 minutes because of lightning and the round was suspended because of fading light with five groups still on the course. Sweden’s Oscar Floren was 4 under with four holes to play.
Ian Poulter, coming off a victory over Donald in the final of World Match Play Championship, and fellow Englishman Ross McGowan were four strokes back at 68 along with Wales’ Bradley Dredge and Spain’s Jose Manuel Lara.
Donald has already missed out on two opportunities this season, losing to Brandt Snedeker in a playoff at The Heritage in April and falling to Poulter on Sunday in Spain.
Donald has had trouble closing out stroke-play tournaments, having won only one in the past five years. However, he won the World Golf Championships-Match Play Championship in Arizona in February, part of eight straight top-10 finishes in a remarkable run of consistency.
“Top 10s are nice, but winning is what’s important,” said Donald, who shot 64 for the fourth time on the European Tour. “I thought anything under par was going to be a good round – 1, 2 under was going to be a solid round. I certainly didn’t expect to come out here and shoot 7 under.”
Westwood made a double bogey after a penalty drop at No. 6 to go with two bogeys in a 72. He then had to undergo a random doping test, but joked the testers had the wrong man.
“They should drug-test Luke after a 64. I can’t quite figure that one out. It’s a very good score,” Westwood said, before criticizing his own play on the greens. “When the longest putt you hole is 5 feet, you’re going to struggle to shoot 7 under in these kind of conditions, which is really the story of the day for me.”
Colin Montgomerie, the 1998, ’99 and 2000 winner, opened with a 68. He birdied three of the first four holes and made the turn in 30, but had five bogeys on the back nine.
“In certain ways, it’s disappointing to only finish 2 under after that start, a flying start. But at the same time, it is tricky. Anybody that breaks 70 today has done extremely well,” said Montgomerie, who said his regular caddie had left him to join Ryder Cup player Francesco Molinari.
Rory McIlroy shot a 76, while Martin Kaymer, who also has a chance to become No. 1, had a 74. Playing partner Charl Schwartzel, the Masters champion, had double bogeys on Nos. 3 and 5 in a 79.
Ernie Els and Graeme McDowell opened with 75s. Jose Maria Olazabal, the 2012 European Ryder Cup captain, withdraw after seven holes because of a back problem.