La Dolce Vita? It was for Italy’s Francesco Molinari as he put in a display of poise and purpose to vault into a share of the lead on day three of the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.

There wasn’t much of the sweet life, though, for a couple of spectators who ended up black and blue as a wayward Rory McIlroy left more than just a mark on the West Course.

While Molinari reaffirmed his affinity with this particular neck of the golfing woods with a neatly assembled six-under 66 for a 13-under tally, McIlroy somehow managed to cling on to a share of the lead during a topsy-turvy afternoon for the overnight pacesetter which, at times, resembled a grisly episode of Casualty.

By the time the 29-year-old, who eventually salvaged a 71, trotted in for his post-round media duties, the golf writers were just about putting on tin helmets and protective cod pieces just in case he clattered them too.

He had left one woman hopping up and down in shrieking agony on the sixth after hitting her on the wrist, landed a sore one on a marshal at the side of the 17th before his wild drive on the 18th crowned another unfortunate female and left her bloodied and bandaged.

The fact he didn’t shout “fore” caused much muttering and tut-tutting.

“I didn’t think that drive would carry that far [on 18] and I didn’t think anyone was in danger,” he said by way of an explanation. If in doubt, always shout, eh?

“When I saw blood, that shook me; but she assured me she was OK. Look, those balls were going deep into the trees or out-of-bounds if they had not hit someone. I got very fortunate today.” He did that.

Three shots clear overnight thanks to his delightful 65 on Friday, McIlroy watched that advantage evaporate as he stumbled through his first six holes in three-over.

The West Course was drier and firmer than previous days and those swirling winds that tend to be a feature of this place added a further layer of menace. As Molinari was making enterprising advances up the order, McIlroy plodded to the turn in two-over.

That he still winkled out a sub-par round, aided by a brace of closing birdies, gave him even more satisfaction than his surging performance 24 hours earlier.

“I’m proud of myself: I stayed patient,” he said. “Walking off the course on Friday, I felt like I left a few out there. Today, though, was as good as I could have been.”

As the wounded were being patched up, Molinari was making serene progress up the field. A birdie on eight provided the catalyst for a telling thrust and he made further gains at the ninth, 12th, 14th, 16th and 17th to signal his intentions.

A trip into the water on the par-5 18th could have been costly but, having taken a penalty drop, he conjured a fine approach which saved his par.

Runner-up here a year ago and with five top-10 finishes in his last six appearances at Wentworth,

Molinari has given himself another chance of completing this ultimate Italian job. “This event is in the hearts of Italian golfers with Costantino Rocca and Matteo Manassero both winning here,” he said.

Molinari and McIlroy finished the day four clear of a chasing pack on nine-under which includes Ross Fisher, Branden Grace, Sam Horsfield and defending champion Alex Noren.

On the Scots front, Richie Ramsay harnessed the testing conditions to good effect and a one-under 71 left him on the fringes of the top-20 with a five-under total.

Marc Warren, beaten in a play-off for the title in the 2013 BMW PGA, also got moving in the right direction as he hoisted himself to three-under with a 70, while Bradley Neil, who leaked three shots in a row around the turn, managed to re-group and limit the damage to a 74 as he finished two-under.

Today’s final round will be played earlier in three-balls in anticipation of adverse weather. They may have to issue a yellow alert when McIlroy takes to the tee too.