BRITISH MASTERS GOLF: Graeme McDowell shy of the leaders at Woburn

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell
Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell

Luke Donald surged into contention for his first European Tour victory in more than three years with a brilliant third round in the British Masters at Woburn.

Donald carded six birdies and no bogeys in a flawless 65 to set the clubhouse target on nine under par, with fellow Englishman Matt Fitzpatrick and Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen both 11 under with eight holes to play.

“I have got myself in a great position and I would love to go out there tomorrow and shoot another round like that, which might be good enough,” said Donald, who was sacked by caddie John McLaren last month after six years together.

“It’s always nice to play in front of great crowds like this week. I would just like to win any tournament to be honest, but it would be a little more special in the UK.

“It’s been a bit of a dry spell for me and I would love to get back in that winners’ circle.”

Donald became world number one by beating Lee Westwood in a play-off for the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth in 2011 and successfully defended the title 12 months later.

However, that remains his last win on the European Tour after switching coaches at the end of 2013 in an attempt to become more consistent off the tee failed to pay off.

The partnership with Chuck Cook only lasted a year before Donald, now ranked 66th, went back to long-time coach Pat Goss and the 37-year-old added: “It’s been two years of probably too many thoughts in my head.

“It’s starting to get more automatic and I am concentrating on shots from 125 yards and in rather than having to grind so hard on the range. My swing is similar to what it was and better in certain areas.

“Some of the things I did with Chuck were good, like not having so much lateral shift in the downswing.”

Donald, Westwood, Ian Poulter and Justin Rose have helped to bring the British Masters back to the European Tour for the first time since 2008 by taking turns to act as tournament hosts.

Poulter unsurprisingly chose home course Woburn as the venue for this week and despite suffering a dreaded shank for the second day running, carded a third round of 70 to finish five under par.

Earlier in the day, Bradley Dredge was forced to withdraw from the tournament just minutes before he was due to start his third round at only two shots off the lead.

Dredge, who carded opening rounds of 66 and 69, has been suffering from a viral infection and informed tournament officials he felt too ill to compete despite having the chance to win his first European Tour title since 2006.

The 42-year-old Welshman lost his card in 2012 but regained it after finishing 81st on the Race to Dubai last year and began the week 83rd on the money list after a consistent campaign.