Molinari leads after brilliant display

7/10/2010 5:20:33 PM
Edoardo Molinari  (Getty Images)
Edoardo Molinari (Getty Images)

Edoardo Molinari takes a one shot lead into the final round of The Barclays Scottish Open after a stunning third round 63 at Loch Lomond.

The Italian's eight under par round takes him to 15 under for the week, one stroke ahead of halfway leader Darren Clarke.

Clarke is still looking good to claim the last-but-one place in The Open Championship at St Andrews next week, but whether he can do it by capturing the title at Loch Lomond remains to be seen.

The 41 year old Ulsterman, who has suddenly this week really ignited a bid for a sixth Ryder Cup cap in October, saw a four stroke lead turn into a one stroke deficit in a high-quality third round.

And Clarke now has to go into the closing 18 holes of the event facing not one, but both the Molinari brothers.

Edoardo, the older but less experienced of the two Omega Mission Hills World Cup holders, is the one who leads after four birdies in the last five holes gave him a scintillating eight under par 63, only one off Retief Goosen's course record and the lowest round of the 29 year old's European Tour career.

Clarke, though, added a second successive 67 to his opening 65 to be 14 under as the pair left the best of the rest trailing well behind.

Francesco Molinari, with a golden opportunity to move from ninth to fifth in The Ryder Cup race, shares third spot with Swede Peter Hedblom, but they are a massive seven shots behind Francesco's brother after rounds of 68 and 69 respectively.

There is one Open Championship spot up for grabs at the end and both Molinaris are already in the field, but Hedblom is not and it goes to the leading non-exempt player in the top five on Sunday night.

The day belonged to Edoardo and the possibility cannot be ruled out of him making a Ryder Cup debut as well.

Last year's Challenge Tour Number One won in Japan in November, has had a second place finish in the States and by lifting the trophy here can go to sixth spot on the world points list from which the first four of Colin Montgomerie's side will come.

"I don't expect to make the team and I really think I have nothing to lose," he said.

"A one shot lead is nothing and I am playing against Darren, one of the best players of all time on The European Tour.

"I think it is going to help me to have Francesco there as well and hopefully he can make some birdies to get in the mix as well."

Clarke is currently in 38th place on the overall Ryder Cup standings, but with a €601,599 first prize on offer could climb all the way to 12th. Not that he is aware of that.

"I have no idea where I am, but I know this is a good week to be playing well," he said.

"The Ryder Cup is not something I have been thinking an awful lot about, but I have given myself a chance to win another tournament and if I do there are a few added bonuses that come with it."

One of them is to qualify for the "biggest and best tournament in the world at the home of golf".

An opening birdie stretched his overnight three shot lead, but a 40 foot putt on the next was the start of Molinari's fightback.

At the long third he struck a superb fairway wood to six feet and eagled and when he birdied the long sixth he was level.

Clarke would edge one in front three more times from that point, but by making a mess of a chip on the 560 yard 13th and taking a bogey six Molinari was able to seize the momentum back.

Both birdied the driveable next, but Clarke could not match his playing partner's putts of 15 and six feet at the 15th and short 17th.

When Molinari hit a superlative second to three feet on the 455 yard 18th as heavy rain returned it looked as though his lead might double, but Clarke also birdied.

England's Graeme Storm and Ireland's Shane Lowry are joint fifth, but at six under are nine adrift.

Clarke's compatriot Graeme McDowell, playing his first European Tour event since winning the US Open Championship, found himself partnering Frenchman Gregory Havret, whom he pushed into second place at Pebble Beach last month.

McDowell got the better of him again with a 68 to 74, but two late bogeys left him three under.

"We shared a few stories about post-Pebble Beach stuff and making the weekend here was important," said McDowell.

"It's been a tough week with a lot going on and my body's not quite back to full strength yet.

"But you've got to enjoy these things. Major Championships don't come along very often."