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Clarke to revel in the pressure

Darren Clarke has admitted he feels nervous and excited as he tries to defend a three-stroke halfway lead at the Scottish Open today and tomorrow, with £500,000 first prize at stake.

The 40-year-old Ulsterman 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.

Clarke has five Ryder Cup caps to his name with Celtic Manor just three months away but 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.

Meanwhile, two-time Open champion Pádraig Harrington will turn the perceived wisdom about links golf on its head for next week's 150th anniversary championship at St Andrews.

The general tactic on the coastal courses is to keep shots low and bounce and run the ball onto the greens.

However, Harrington believes the undulating putting surfaces of the Old Course, combined with tricky pin positions, means such an approach will make it difficult to post a winning score.

Instead, despite the hard, dry conditions, he plans to fly the ball high in an attempt to avoid the numerous bunkers and get his approach shots closer to the hole.

"I am very familiar with the course but I do expect it to be slightly different, especially with the variations of the pin positions," said the 38-year-old.

"I definitely think it is all about having a real good knowledge of the golf course.

"Everyone wants to jump on the train of thought that you need to be a big hitter to carry the trouble at St Andrews.

"You do need to avoid the bunkers off the tee but a straight hitter will be very long around there because the ball will run.

"There is no length issue but you have to drive it well. You have to have more control of your iron shots than most links golf courses.

"This is not a week when I will be practising hitting the ball low. You can hit greens hitting it low but you won't hit it close."

Harrington won two Dunhill Links titles, in 2002 and 2006, on a St Andrews course he loves -- but expects a much more difficult task next week even if the weather does stay fine.

"The two times I won there was in October and that is different," added the Dubliner, who is a three-time major winner having added the 2008 US PGA to his two Open triumphs.

"It is number one course on the Open rota, the number one course in golf. There are a few courses that make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and St Andrews is an unbelievable place as it is the home of golf."


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