Clarke takes on Molinari brothers in Scotland

Darren Clarke could find himself caught up in a family battle as he tries to defend a three-stroke halfway lead at the Barclays Scottish Open today and tomorrow.

The 40-year-old has dominated the first two rounds at Loch Lomond, reaching 10 under par with rounds of 65 and 67 despite some really tough conditions.

Edoardo Molinari is his closest challenger and only two shots further back in fifth place is the Italian’s younger brother Francesco.

The pair won the World Cup in China last November, but have never duelled for a European Tour title before.

And there is more than just a trophy and £500,000 first prize at stake. Both are in contention for a Ryder Cup debut at Celtic Manor in three months’ time.

Francesco, who last weekend lost a play-off in the French Open, is currently eighth in the race for places in Colin Montgomerie’s side and needs only a top-seven finish tomorrow to move up to fifth.

Edoardo has more work to do because his best performances since qualifying started last September have come on the Challenge Tour and in Japan and America.

The 29-year-old former US Amateur champion is 11th on the world points list, but only four of the team will come from that table.

“If one of us wins I think we are going to be happy any way,” he said. “So we have double the chances of the others.

“We are very competitive with each other, but we are very close at the same time. I hope Francesco plays well and I hope I will play well.”

Asked if their friendship extended to splitting the money he replied: “Unfortunately not. Francesco has been playing on the Tour for five years, so I’d be a much richer man than I am now!”

Clarke has earned several times more than both of them put together in a career which has brought him five Ryder Cup caps.

He is only 38th on the current standing, though, and at 179th in the world his performance so far this week was not expected.

His last win was two years ago and for all his experience, he was feeling the pressure.

“I’m going into the weekend probably a little bit nervous, but very excited at the same time,” he said. “I want to get out there and play and give myself a chance.”

An added incentive, as if he needed it, is a place in next week’s Open at St Andrews. That goes to the leading non-exempt player providing he finishes in the top five.

Welshman Bradley Dredge, who threw away a great chance to win in Munich two weeks ago, and Swede Peter Hedblom shared third on six under when play resumed.

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