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Trio top leaderboard heading in to the weekend

Long-hitting Spaniard Alvaro Quiros birdied the final three holes Friday for a 4-under 67 and a share of the second-round lead in the BMW PGA Championship with second-ranked Luke Donald and Italian teenager Matteo Manassero.

Manassero birdied No. 18 for a 70, and Donald had a 72 to match Quiros at 6-under 136 on the Ernie Els-remodeled West Course at Wentworth. England’s David Horsey (68), Spain’s Jose Manuel Lara (70) and South Africa’s Thomas Aitken (67) were 4 under.

Most of the field wore the trademark navy blue to honor Seve Ballesteros, who died aged 54 on May 7 from complications of a brain tumor.

Donald, the overnight leader after matching his lowest European Tour round with a 64, opened with a bogey and also dropped strokes on Nos. 7 and 10. 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, 1 under after a 68, to capture the No. 1 ranking.

Two-time major champion John Daly became the fourth player to pull out of the event, retiring after 14 holes because of a hip injury.

The 18-year-old Manassero is well placed to capture his third title in less than a year since he turned professional, a victory that would vault 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.”

Third-ranked Martin Kaymer made the cut by a stroke, shooting a 71 to finish at 3 over. U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell (5 over), Masters winner Charl Schwartzel (12 over) and British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen (8 over) missed the cut.

Ian Poulter, who beat Donald in the final of the World Match Play Championship last weekend in Spain, was even par after a double bogey on his last hole left him with a 74. Poulter criticized the course, which he had avoided in 2008 and ’09 because he doesn’t like 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.”

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, 1 under after a 71.

“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.”

While many players wore navy blue as a tribute to Ballesteros, Lara said if he won the tournament it would be largely down to the legacy of the five-time major champion and fellow Spaniard.

“If I could win and dedicate it to Seve, it would be great,” Lara said. “I play golf because of him. Most of us in Spain only know of golf because of him. I started to play on a small public golf course. He was the one who gave us the chance to play, and he has been fighting all his life for that.

“I’ve got some history with him, I played some tournaments with him. He was a good friend. I played Spanish Open, some British rounds, Italian Open. He gave me some very good tips when I was young.”

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