Darren Clarke turned in another brilliant performance in foul weather at Loch Lomond Friday to take command of the Barclays Scottish Open at the halfway stage.
The 40-year-old Ulsterman, now ranked only 179th in the world and down at 38th in the European Ryder Cup points race, moved to 10 under par and three clear of second-place Italian Edoardo Molinari after adding a 4-under-par 67 to his opening 65.
Given the "brutal" conditions, Clarke considered it an even more satisfying round. His one bogey -- the only one he has had in 36 holes so far -- came when he three-putted from just 20 feet at the short 11th.
Molinari, whose younger brother and World Cup-winning partner Francesco is in fifth place at 5 under, shot 69 and admitted he would love to partner his sibling in the final round.
"It would be nice to play with him on Sunday,” he said. "We have double the chances of the others. We are competitive, but we are very close and happy for the other."
Welshman Bradley Dredge and Swede Peter Hedblom shared third place. They were partners in the first two rounds and have matched each other with scores of 67 and 69.
Clarke, superbly placed now to claim the British Open place up for grabs at the event, caused some laughter when he offered his own description of the morning weather.
When asked for the last time he had played through such a deluge he replied: "It wasn't torrential heavy rain, it was just torrential rain.
"If you're from Ireland there's a difference, a massive difference,” he said. "We knew it was going to be very hard, but obviously at home in Portrush I've had much worse than this.
"When we got on the first tee and there was no placing (meaning the lift, clean and place rule wasn’t in effect), we were all surprised. The ball was going nowhere and consequently the course was playing brutally long,” he explained. "You have to take what the course gives you and try to grind out a score. Certainly I've very pleased to have ground out 4 under -- I thought anything around level par was going to be pretty good."
After his early slip-up -- the 11th was his second hole -- he sank a 15-foot putt on the next, chipped in for another birdie at the demanding 16th and holed from just off the edge at the first and third. On the fourth, a 20-footer found the target and he parred in over a closing stretch that saw John Daly slump from 6 under to 2 under and Ernie Els have back-to-back double bogeys.
Masters champion Phil Mickelson, who needed a top-2 finish to topple Tiger Woods as world No. 1, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and defending champion Martin Kaymer were among the players to miss the cut by one at 3 over -- Mickelson after hitting two balls in the water on the 18th, his ninth, and running up a quintuple-bogey 9. U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell safely made it through on level par after another 71.