WENTWORTH, May 26, 2011 (AFP) - Luke Donald went a step closer to displacing Lee Westwood at the top of the world rankings as he shot an opening round 64, seven-under par, in the PGA Championship here at Wentworth on Thursday.
Donald's round was played in tricky conditions but he was safely in the clubhouse by the time the threat of lightning saw play suspended for 36 minutes late in the afternoon.
There were 15 players left on the course when darkness including Swede's Oscar Floren, in the final group, who was four-under par through 14 holes and will have to complete his fourth round on Friday.
Westwood could only manage a 72 whilst Germany's Martin Kaymer, the third player involved in the tussle at the top of the rankings, was round in 74 and ten off the blistering pace set by Donald.
Italian teenager Matteo Manassero and Sweden's Johan Edfors were Donald's closest challengers, both in with 66s with Ian Poulter, Ross McGowan and Spain's Juan-Manuel Lara, helped by eagle three at the 17th, two shots further back.
Welshman Bradley Dredge was also on three-under par and two-time winner Anders Hansen, Darren Clarke, former Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie and Spain's Alvaro Quiros headed a clutch of players finishing on two-under.
But there were fireworks in the last group out from Sweden's Oscar Floren who was four-under par after just seven holes and looking to threaten Donald as conditions eased.
It was poor day for the South African contingent with US Masters champion Charl Schwartzel collapsed to a 79 and last year's British Open winner Louis Ooshuizen had a 76.
Donald will leapfrog Westwood if he finishes ahead of his countryman and Germany's Martin Kaymer - three over after 14 holes - is out of the top two.
Westwood had a double bogey on the par-4 sixth on his way to 72.
The 33-year-old Donald revealed on Wednesday that he thought he was the most consistent golfer in the world at the moment and he backed that assertion with his only blemish coming with a bogey at the par-4 12th.
Donald, who has a win and 13 top-10s in his last 14 starts, admitted he struggled to remember having played so well and looked in total command of his game throughout apart from a poor second shot on the 12th.
He said: "I felt a little bit invincible. That was probably one of the best rounds I have ever played. To have total control of the ball does not happen very much in golf and when I was seeing shots I was able to hit them.
"The last few years have been a struggle from tee to green but I hit a lot of great shots today, a lot of solid irons and I finished off most of the chances I had. I have got no complaints at all."
Westwood, who struggled with his putter all day, said: "Seven under is a very good score. But when the longest putt you hole is five feet, you are going to struggle to shoot seven-under in these conditions and that is the story of the day for me."
Rory McIlroy and US Open champion Graeme McDowell had disappointing rounds ending on five and four over respectively.
Leading and selected scores in the first round of the European PGA Championship here at Wentworth on Thursday (par 71; completed rounds only):
64 - Luke Donald
66 - Matteo Manassero (ITA), Johan Edfors (SWE)
68 - Ross McGowan, Bradley Dredge, Ian Poulter, Juan-Manuel Lara (ESP)
69 - Darren Clarke, Colin Montgomerie, Alvaro Quiros (ESP), Kenneth Ferrie, Thomas Levet (FRA), Anders Hansen (DEN)
70 - Marcus Fraser (AUS), David Horsey, Peter Hanson (SWE)
71 - Ye Yang (KOR), Peter Whiteford, Robert Coles, David Howell, Simon Dyson, Thomas Aiken (RSA), SSP Chowrasia (IND), Andrew Dodt (AUS), Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR) Alvaro Velasco (ESP), Mark Foster, Scott Jamieson, Richard Green (AUS), John Parry, Joost Luiten (NED), Jamie Donaldson, Michael Hoey
72 - Michael Campbell (NZ), Lee Westwood, John Daly (USA), Paul Casey, Scott Strange (AUS)
74 - Mark Brown (NZ), Retief Goosen (RSA), Thongchai Jaidee (THA), Martin Kaymer (GER), Eduardo Molinari (ITA), James Kingston (RSA), Danny Lee (NZ)
75 - Graeme McDowell, Jeev Mikha Singh (IND), Justin Rose, Ernie Els (RSA), Francesco Molinari (ITA)
76 - Simon Khan, Rory McIlroy, Daniel Gaunt (AUS), Jaco Van Zyl (RSA), Louis Oosthuizen (RSA)
77 - Seung-yul Noh (KOR)
78 - Keith Horne (RSA)
79 - Charl Schwartzel (RSA)