Lee Westwood believes he is the man to watch in today’s third round of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth as he seeks the 41st win of his career.
While Ryder Cup team-mates Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Ian Poulter and defending champion Luke Donald missed the halfway cut, Westwood found himself three off the lead held by another Medinah colleague Francesco Molinari.
Molinari’s second round of 68 was the joint lowest score of another cold and wet day at European Tour headquarters, leaving the London-based Italian six under par and one shot clear of England’s Mark Foster, Scotland’s Marc Warren, Spain’s Alejandro Canizares and South African George Coetzee.
Westwood was two shots further back on three under and feels the improvement in his chipping and putting will make him a dangerous customer over the weekend.
“My short game’s been red hot,” said the 40-year-old. “I played some nice pitches and walking off the back of the 12th green, where I pitched to about four feet, Ernie (Els) said ’Bit of a short-game wizard now’.
“I also got up and down on 18 after hitting it in the hazard and those sorts of things can make a big difference to your week and going into the weekend with momentum.
“My long game’s not been that good recently. It was iffy at the Masters (where he finished eighth) and I didn’t hit how I wanted at the Players Championship (also eighth), but it was okay at Quail Hollow (fourth) and I gave myself a good chance there.
“If my long game starts to come together, I could be dangerous.”
Els, responsible for the controversial course re-design in 2010, was alongside Westwood on three under, with Nicolas Colsaerts two under and Sergio Garcia – at the centre of a racism row following his “fried chicken” remark about Tiger Woods on Tuesday – another stroke back.
English rookie Eddie Pepperell was a spectator last year when Donald won the tournament for the second year in succession, but 12 months on the 22-year-old went into the third round round just two off the lead after birdies on his last four holes in a second-round 69.
“It’s pretty special. I can’t remember the last time I’ve done that, if I’ve ever done it,” he said. “The weather was horrible for the first 10 or 11 holes and I hung in there really well.”
Pepperell, who only got into the £4million event on Monday, added: “It’s amazing. I’m fortunate to be here. When the entry lists came out I didn’t think I had a chance if I’m honest, but it’s probably the best event I’ve ever been a part of, so it’s great.
“I’m only an hour away so I’m local. Some members from Frilford Heath and Drayton Park have shown up in support and I really appreciate it.”