Darren Clarke is set to swap the solace of the Harbour Bar in Portrush with a hopeful victory celebration in the Jigger Inn at St. Andrews after moving three strokes clear of the field after two days of the Barclays Scottish Open.
Clarke has one hand on the stunning Rossdhu House winning trophy with scores of 65 and 67 for a 10-under par halfway tally to lead Italy's Edoardo Molinari (69) on the rain-softened shores of Loch Lomond.
“I played pretty good today but the conditions were very, very tough and the ball was going nowhere, so consequently the course was playing brutally long,” he said.
“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.”
Despite the rain, Clarke has dropped just one shot in two days and that was at his second hole yesterday when he three-putted from 20-feet.
Clarke rekindled his crestfallen career earlier this week in capturing the J.P. McManus Pro-Am at Adare Manor but he hasn't won on the European Tour since September 2008 in winning the KLM Open.
“I've consolidated my position and I've played nicely again,” he said.
“It's been a couple of years since I've been at the top of the leaderboard in a European Tour event, so I'm going in to the weekend a little bit nervous but very excited at the same time.”
Victory would send Clarke to next week's British Open at the Home of Golf.
And he could be toasting later tomorrow night in the Jigger Inn.
His management company, ISM, is hiring out the famous watering hole, located alongside the 17th fairway, for the entire week of the 150th British Open.
Delighted to see Clarke return to form is reigning U.S. Open winner Graeme McDowell who carded a level par 71 to end at level par for the event.
“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.
McDowell, with his father Kenny looking on, birdied three holes in succession from his 12th but was disappointed to double the par four seventh after landing behind a tree.
However, with 36 holes to play and six days to the British Open, golf's newest Major winner is confident his game will be 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.
Damien McGrane ended the day among the top-10 at four under par.