Francesco Molinari was caught at the top of the Scottish Open leaderboard after the second round but remains favourite for the title.
The Italian added a two-under-par 70 to his opening 62 for a 12-under-par total and was joined by Sweden’s Alexander Noren, who carded a second consecutive 66.
In-form Molinari’s odds have been eased from 11/4 to a general 7/2 yet he still heads the market, with Noren available at 15/2 with Paddy Power
Splitting the pair in the betting is defending champion Luke Donald, who is three shots behind the pace-setters at the halfway stage after following his opening 67 with a 68.
The world No 1, who won the weather-shortened event at Castle Stuart in Inverness by four strokes in 2011, is a 5/1 chance.
Molinari’s young compatriot Matteo Manassero is tied for third alongside Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez and that pair are 10/1 and 25/1 respectively with Paddy Power.
There was a welcome return to form for Phil Mickelson, who rocketed up the leaderboard thanks to a second round of 64 which put him five shots off the lead.
The three-time Masters champion, a 22/1 chance for the title, was ending a run of eight consecutive over-par competitive rounds.
“I’m really glad I added this tournament,” said ‘Lefty’, a last-minute Scottish Open entry. “I’ve only played three events in the last couple of months.
“It’s very helpful to see my game progress so quickly. It’s very important that I have a couple more rounds here.
“It gives me a chance now on the weekend to have a couple more days working on my game for The Open.”
Another player handily placed going into the last two rounds is Martin Kaymer, who finished stone last of those that made the cut in the French Open a week ago.
The German, who won the Scottish Open when it was played at its previous home of Loch Lomond, is three shots off the lead and a 12/1 chance with Paddy Power.
But among those departing early to begin their preparations for The Open having missed the cut were Paul Casey, Thomas Bjorn, Paul Lawrie and Kevin Na.