By Tom Pilcher
VIRGINIA WATER, England (Reuters) - 'Luke, Luke' cried the fans after Luke Donald took a two-shot lead in the PGA Championship third round with a masterful display under a scorching sun and swirling winds on Saturday.
The stretched-out chanting of his name sounds like booing but is anything but.
"It's nice to have your own chant," said Donald (69) after carding one of only three sub-70 rounds on a typically testing Wentworth day to wind up with an 11-under tally of 205.
"I've never seen as many people in the crowd as this, even at a British Open," he told reporters after a Saturday record total of 25,176 watched the action at the intimidating West Course just outside London.
Donald will grab the world number one ranking back from Rory McIlroy if he retains the PGA title on Sunday that propelled him to top spot for a long spell last year.
The Englishman spent 40 uninterrupted weeks at number one from late May 2011 and also went on to become the first player to win the orders of merit on both sides of the Atlantic.
The 34-year-old need only finish eighth on his own to usurp McIlroy and although he has his critics because of an unspectacular playing style, his method bore fruit on an extremely tricky day for scoring.
"This is a tough place and it demands a huge amount of patience," said Donald. "It's not necessarily geared towards the bombing long-hitter."
Donald has been nicknamed 'Mr. Plod' for the way he plots his way round courses but there was nothing boring about his majestic six-iron to 15 feet at the par-five fourth that left fans open-jawed with admiration.
"That's a tough putt but I'm sure he'll make birdie," Donald's wife Diane said to a friend as she craned her neck for a glimpse of the golf.
Her husband duly obliged and moments later he was top of the leaderboard after overnight pacesetter James Morrison scored an ugly eight at the same hole.
Donald's only blip came after an unlucky bounce off a spectator at 15 where his ball deflected off a fan's leg into a ditch, causing his solitary bogey of the day.
He was back to his best on the two closing par-five holes, brilliantly saving par on the monstrous 17th before steering in a birdie putt at the last.
Expect to hear the 'Luke, Luke' cries again on Sunday.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez)