Clarke maintains grip on lead

NEW US Open champion Graeme McDowell has promised countryman Darren Clarke a contest despite trailing 10 shots behind Clarke heading to the closing two rounds of the Barclay’s Scottish Open.

Clarke continues to impress after carding a 67 in steady Loch Lomond rain to move to 10-under par and three strokes clear of Italian Edorado Molinari (69).

The 41-year-old has dropped just one stroke in 36 holes as he strives to end a two-year winless drought and also earn a place into next week’s British Open.

“It was just one of those days where you knew it was going to be tough and you had to take what the course gives you and just grind out a score,” said Clarke.

McDowell birdied three holes in succession from the 12th but also doubled the seventh and bogeyed the last in a 71 to fall back to level par.

And while delighted to see Clarke return to form, the Pebble Beach winning hero has promised his fellow Ulsterman a far from bonnie ride along the high road of Loch Lomond.

“Darren is one of the more talented ball strikers in the world and he has been for some time, so it’s great to see him playing well here,” said McDowell.

“It is interesting when friends and colleagues and fellow countryman start playing well so much so that times you can get in the slipstream a little bit and sort of feed off each other.

“His personal pride will kick in at some point and he will be trying to catch Rory and I on the world rankings, so I hope he sticks in there and gives it a good run but then I will be looking to get out fast tomorrow morning and try and chase him down.”

McDowell admitted his game, with 36 holes to play and six days to the British Open, is nearing 100% ahead of teeing-up at the Home of Golf.

“With two rounds still to go my game’s about 60% ahead of the Open, so I just need to find a bit more sharpness and a bit of focus and I’ll be fine,” said McDowell.

“There are still a few weak swings in there but then that’s just golf and besides you can’t hit every shot out of the middle of the bat.”

Damien McGrane ended the day among the top-10 at four under par but ruined his day with a double-bogey at 16 in a round of 72.

Other Irish scores: Shane Lowry 73 – 141; Peter Lawrie 74 and Gareth Maybin 73 – 144; Michael Hoey 73 – 147; Paul McGinley – 74 – 148.


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