VIRGINIA WATER, England (AP) – Luke Donald moved to the brink of a second successive BMW PGA Championship title and reclaiming the top ranking by shooting a 3-under 69 to take a two-stroke lead after the third round on Saturday.
Donald overcame tough, windy conditions at Wentworth to be one of only three players to break 70 on a day of high scoring that led course designer Ernie Els to criticize European Tour officials for the state of the greens.
Donald's fellow Englishman Justin Rose (69) was alone in second at 9 under while Peter Lawrie of Ireland (72) was two shots further back at 7 under.
“Physically and mentally, it was tough out there and it's going to be a grind tomorrow,'' said Donald, who would become only the third player – after Nick Faldo and Colin Montgomerie – to defend the title here.
He needs to finish in the top eight to retake No. 1 from Rory McIlroy, who missed the cut for the second tournament in a row after a 79 on Friday.
England's James Morrison started the day with a four-shot lead on 12 under but made two 8s – one triple bogey and one quadruple bogey – on his way to an 81 to fall eight shots off the pace.
“With the wind and the firmness of the course, it was brutal,'' said the 236th-ranked Morrison. “I'm very, very disappointed but it's definitely a learning curve for me.''
Morrison shot 64 on Friday but was one of nine players to make 80 or more when winds of up to 30 mph combined with hard greens to wreak havoc on an already-tough West Course.
Els, one of four players tied for fourth on 5 under after shooting 70, unloaded an expletive-laced tirade after his round in which he slammed Wentworth greenkeepers and European Tour officials for failing to adequately water the putting surfaces.
“I'm fed up with it … It's not my bloody job doing it. It's their job. They have been around a long time, I'm really disappointed with it,'' said the two-time U.S. Open champion, who was criticized last year for making the course too difficult after helping redesign it in 2010.
Ian Poulter (69) was the only other player to break 70 at the tour's flagship event on Saturday to stand at 3 under.
Conditions dictated a cool head and Donald showed it once again. He had four birdies and dropped only one shot on the par-4 15th.
He holed a 20-foot birdie putt on the last to give him an extra cushion heading into Sunday, a year after his playoff victory over Lee Westwood here.
“This is a tough place and demands a huge amount of patience,'' Donald said. “It's not great for a bomber (off the tee). It's great for somebody who can work their way around.
“The good players that can be patient and deal with it are always going to rise to the top usually.''
Rose bounced back from dropping shots at Nos. 2 and 3 to go through the rest of his round bogey-free, keeping him in contention for a win that could move him to a career-high No. 5 in the rankings.
“There were some borderline holes out there,'' said Rose, referring to Els' comments that players were struggling to hold their approach shots on the greens. “It took all of your experience and skill and patience.''