Manassero and Donald tied for lead after tough third round at BMW PGA

matteo manassero
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Matteo Manassero escaped the rough on the seventh hole at Wentworth on Saturday en route to a 72.
By
Mark Garrod
PA Sport

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Published: Saturday, May 28, 2011 | 2:45 p.m.

Teenage sensation Matteo Manassero faces the biggest test of his young sporting life at Wentworth on Sunday.

After a third round of the BMW PGA Championship that was full of the good, the bad and plenty of the downright ugly, the 18-year-old Manassero is tied for the lead with world No. 2 Luke Donald.

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World No. 1 Lee Westwood, trying to fend off Donald at the top of the rankings, is only two shots back in a tie for third with Paraguay's Fabrizio Zanotti.

But the two English stars are fully aware of what a talent Manassero is.

Thirteenth in the British Open at the age of 16 and the youngest-ever player to make the cut in the Masters last year, he has already won twice on the European Tour in just over 12 months as a professional.

A third victory now would make him the youngest winner of the European Tour’s flagship event, take his earnings through the 2 million euro mark -- and, unbelievably, could take him as high as 15th in the world.

"I am certainly not as strong mentally as them (Donald and Westwood) because they more experienced and everything, but I will try to fight,” said Manassero after a 72 that put him on the 5-under-par mark of 208 overall. "Really, I don't think it's going to be a mental battle. It's going to be the guy who plays and putts better."

Westwood commented: "Irritatingly young, isn't he? I've been on tour longer than he's been on Earth. But he's very good."

For Donald to retain a share of the lead was remarkable. He dropped five shots in five holes early on and fell six behind. But then came a fightback that was complete when he holed a curling 12-footer on the last for par after going so deep into the trees -- not for the first time -- that he hit a second drive just in case.

While Manassero had two birdies and three bogeys on the front nine and then parred his way home, Donald's round contained four birdies -- all on the inward half -- one bogey and two double bogeys.

It could have been a whole lot worse, given some of the places he visited.

Westwood, meanwhile, shot a 69 that was only one off the best of the day by Rory McIlroy from the cut line.

Difficult pin placings -- even course re-designer Ernie Els called the one at the 15th "just crazy" -- caused real problems for the entire field, with Scotland's Scott Jamieson having an 85, Australian Scott Strange an 84 and Irishman Gareth Maybin an 83.

As for Spain's Alvaro Quiros, who led at halfway with Donald and Manassero, he took 7 on the ninth and 8 at the 17th in a 76 that left him with four shots to make up.

Donald's troubles started with a double bogey on the short second, where he missed the green long and left and then chipped off the front and down the slope. Another shot went on the next, and at the sixth a drive deep into the trees cost him another double bogey.

He was in danger of going from "invincible" -- how he felt during Thursday's 64 -- to invisible at that point, but birdies at the 11th and 12th brought him back into it and then a 30-footer on the 16th left him only one behind.

Westwood talked before the event about lurking and then coming through strongly and so far it has kept to his script. Eight adrift of Donald when he opened with a 72, he moved up to 12th with a second-round 69, and by adding another he is right in the thick of things going into the final day.

"I have by no means flushed it or ripped it this week," he said. "I am edging my way into the week and hopefully tomorrow I will play special because that's what I think I will need to win."

Asked if he had thought himself invincible during his career, Westwood replied: "No -- golf's unpredictable.

"I have occasionally felt really confident and got into the zone, but it was not a feeling of invincibility. You are always on your guard,” he explained. "It was a good 69. You've got to be on your game -- it's a tough examination."

Donald said he might call his Chicago-based coach Pat Goss after his error-strewn display.

"He might have seen something and a little key could make a big difference," he said. "I didn't have much control of the ball, but I dug deep and I'm very proud of the way I came back.

"I am going to have to play better than that for sure. I felt somewhat like Seve (Ballesteros) -- in the trees, leaves on my back, dropping the ball, escaping from everywhere,” he explained. "It would have been very easy to keep the head down and shoot myself out of the tournament, but I don't like to do that and it was a great fightback."