Darren Clarke. (Picture Eoin Clarke/www.golffile.ie)You have to admire Darren Clarke’s tenacity. One of these days it is going to pay off and it might be this week in the Trophée Hassan II where he goes into today’s third round just a stroke behind the leaders.

Defending champion Rhys Davies and Dutchman Joost Luiten lead by a stroke on six under par from Clarke and eight others.

Just two shots separate the top 17 players as high winds led to mixed scoring in Agadir, where the field have been split over the Golf De L’Océan and Golf Du Palais Royal courses in a pro-am format for the first two days.

But Clarke will not be overawed by the competition and he knows that he is closer than ever to getting back on the winning trail and returning to the world’s top 100.

Dubliner Peter Lawrie suffered more than most, following his course record 64 on the Palace course with a wind-blown, five over 76 on the Ocean course. On the bright side, Lawrie is just three behind on three under.

Clarke dropped just one shot in a patient, three under 69 on the Robert Trent Jones Snr designed Palais course to remain in contention for his first European Tour win for three years.

But whether he can keep it going for another two days is the big question for a player who will be 43 later this year.

Another “oldie”, 44 year old Paul McGinley, crept up the leaderboard with a one under 71 on the Palais to get back to level par and continue his recovery from the worst season for his 20 year pro career.

That left him on the same mark as Michael Hoey (72 on the Palais), who has now established himself as a consistent tour pro who is capable of winning anywhere if all elements of his game are on song.

Damien McGrane, who is still struggling to find his game, was the only other Irish player to survive the cut after rounds of 70 and 75.

As for Shane Lowry, the Offaly man came back from his career worst 81 on Thursday with a two under 70 on the Palais course that will have restored some of his confidence ahead of the three-tournament swing in Asia.

Increasingly adept at explaining his feelings on Twitter these days, Lowry wrote: “At least I still know how to play anyway!”

Expect better from the big Offaly man in Malaysia, China and Korea.