Second-ranked Luke Donald of England, Italian teenager Matteo Manassero and Alvaro Quiros of Spain share a two-shot lead at the halfway mark of the BMW PGA Championship on Friday.
Quiros birdied the last three holes in a 4-under 67 at Wentworth, equal best in the round, Manassero birdied No. 18 in a 70 and Donald had a 72.
They all totaled 6-under 136 on a day of average scoring and some scathing player criticism of the Ernie Els-remodeled West Course.
David Horsey of England (68), Jose Manuel Lara of Spain (70) and South Africa’s Thomas Aitken (67) are next.
Donald, the overnight leader after a 64 to match his lowest European Tour round, started with a bogey and hit two more. Manassero also made three bogeys.
”It was definitely tougher out there today,” Donald said. ”It was slightly disappointing that I didn’t take advantage of some of the opportunities that I had there, and some of the bogeys I made were kind of weak bogeys. But I kind of stuck in there at the end, so I’m still in a good position and looking forward to the weekend.”
The Englishman needs to finish in front of Lee Westwood (69) to take the No. 1 ranking, but his original eight-shot lead over his compatriot is now down to five.
Manassero – the youngest European Tour winner at 17 years, 188 days – is well placed to capture a third title inside less than a year since he turned professional, a victory that would promote him into the top 15 in the world.
”Even if it wasn’t as windy as yesterday, it wasn’t easy to score,” Manassero said. ”I haven’t played as well as yesterday but I still shot under par, which is important on a course like this.”
The projected cut is at 5 over, ending the tournament for Masters champion Charl Schwartzel (12 over) and British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen (8 over). U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell (5 over) and PGA Championship holder Martin Kaymer (3 over) are set to squeeze into the weekend.
Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter double-bogeyed the last in a 74 to be level par, and then launched an attack on a course he had previously avoided in 2008 and ’09 due to a dislike of the greens.
”I decided to continue my love affair with this golf course on the last,” he said sarcastically. ”We are trying to land it on a dining room table from 230 yards out. You miss you target, yeah, I think it’s a little unfair. I’ve walked off the golf course and I’m absolutely headless, absolutely fuming.
”It’s now turning into a very, very difficult golf course and I’ve got to say, it’s not fun golf.”
Asked if he would play in the event next year, Poulter said: ”Who knows? I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’ve got no idea. I’ll speak freely – many others may not.”
Els defended the course as a major championship-style layout.
”Wentworth is now a fair and honest test of golf,” he said. ”I believe you will not find better surfaces to putt on anywhere in the world at the moment, but unfortunately you only hear the negative comments and very little positive. This course is by no means unfair.”
Poulter’s criticisms were shared by playing partner Paul Casey of England, who shot a 71 to be 1 over.
”I think (owner) Richard Caring, from what I’ve heard, was perhaps wanting something like level par to win. Well he might get that but does that make it entertaining?” Casey said.
”One of the beautiful things about Wentworth is always the great finish and the fact that guys could finish with maybe four threes (two birdies, two eagles) and shoot up that leaderboard. It’s very, very difficult now.”
Two-time major champion John Daly became the fourth player to pull out of the event, retiring after 14 holes citing a hip injury. His withdrawal and Anthony Kang missing the cut leaves no Americans left in the field.
Jose Maria Olazabal (back), Paul Waring (hand) and Robert-Jan Derksen (rib) withdrew in the opening round.