(CNN) -- With Rory McIlroy, the world's second-ranked golfer, and defending champion Luke Donald not surviving the cut at the PGA Championship, the door was opened for others at the European Tour's flagship event.
Spain's Alejandro Canizares took advantage, leading at Wentworth in England heading into the final day after registering a four-under 68 to move to nine-under 207 overall.
Canizares, whose lone European Tour title came in Russia seven years ago, was forced to skip this month's China Open after being diagnosed with viral meningitis.
"I'm not at full strength but it's working for me, so I'm not going to complain," said Canizares, the son of Ryder Cup veteran Jose Maria Canizares.
Matteo Manassero of Italy, at 20 bidding to become the youngest winner of the event, and Scotland's Marc Warren sit tied for third at seven-under, a shot better than Ireland's Shane Lowry.
But it's the player in second, England's Lee Westwood, who might fancy his chances Sunday.
Westwood, twice a runner-up at Wentworth, a Ryder Cup stalwart and the only member of the top five inside the top 50 in the world rankings, is a single shot behind Canizares.
Westwood, who recorded a 67 in the third round, said it would be "ironic" if he won the title months after moving his family from England to Florida.
Although not matching the weather in Florida, Saturday's conditions were significantly better than chilly Thursday and Friday.
"It would be great and I am after as many wins as I can get, but it's a crowded leaderboard and I will have to play as well, if not better than I did today," Westwood said. "I felt much more in tune with my swing and had a lot better distance and direction control with my irons and set up a lot of chances.
"It was one of the most fun days I have ever had on a golf course. It was good to see a lot more smiling faces and a lot more people prepared to take their hands out of their pockets and applaud.
"I also get great support here but even more so today."
Another golfer that praised the spectators was Spain's Sergio Garcia.
Garcia came under fire this week and issued an apology for his "fried chicken" jibe. He considered pulling out of the tournament. But Garcia played, made the cut and remains in contention, tied for sixth at five-under.
"The crowds here, I don't have words to explain what I feel towards them," Garcia, last a winner on the European Tour in 2011, said. "They have been amazing, every single tee, every single green, cheering me on, and I can never pay them back."
Also tied for sixth is the halfway leader, Italian Francesco Molinari, who slumped to a 73 in the third round. Popular Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, the oldest man in the event at 49, registered a 67 to rise to a tie for 14th at four-under.
British Open champion Ernie Els, undone by bogeys on the first and third holes, could only manage a par 72 and fell six shots behind the leader.