Players Can Expect Deep Rough & Changeable Weather at Royal Lytham

Thanks to a wet spring and summer, the players at this week's Open Championship at Royal Lytham and St. Annes can expect some heavy cabbage when venturing off the course's narrow fairways.

Defending champion, Darren Clarke, who brought the Claret Jug he's had in his possession for the past year to the Blackpool links, termed the rough "absolutely brutal" on a rainy Monday.

Tiger Woods, a three-time winner of the Claret Jug, seconded Clarke's description. "I've never seen the rough this high or thick and dense," Woods told reporters. "You can't get out of it. That bottom six inches, in some places, is almost unplayable."

Clarke added he was surprised to find the rough so rugged. "The grass is quite thick. It's not quite what we would expect on a links course. It's a little bit thicker than what you normally find. It's really tough. If you start spraying the ball around this week you might as well go home. There are a few patches out there where it's just absolutely brutal."

Underscoring the need for players to find - and stay on - the short grass is Lytham's 200-plus bunkers, many of which are of the pot - read: deep - variety.

"It's a nightmare because there are 205 bunkers and . . . they're very penal, very tough," said Clarke, who returned the Claret Jug to the Royal & Ancient's chief executive Peter Dawson.

"You know there are going to be occasions here this week where I think you're going to see guys taking penalty drops out of them because they won't be able to move the ball anywhere. They are a huge part of this course. It's very heavily bunkered in the landing areas where we really need to hit the ball."

Ernie Els, who won the Open Championship in 2002 at Muirfield, seconded Clark and Woods' thoughts on the need for accuracy this week.

''It's a course where there's a certain way you've got to play it,'' Els said. ''It's a lot like Hoylake. You'll have a lot of guys doing the same thing. So it's the guy with the best nerves, the best shot-making, the guy with the best putter. It's going to come down to the final bit here," added golf's "Big Easy."

"If you're not sure what you're doing, you're going to get yourself in trouble. You've got to be sure of yourself. It's a fair test. You're going to get somebody good this week.''

Despite his concerns, Woods also considers the course is reasonable. "I like the layout. It's fair," said Woods, a three-time winner in 2012 who's looking for his 15th major title in England. "They don't have to trick it up. They don't have to do anything with it. If it's calm, we can shoot some good scores. If it's wet, lush, you've got to be more aggressive.

"Each British Open has its own little quirks. You can have so many different weather conditions. You just don't know. That's one of the unique things about the British Open and why it's my favorite major championship."

Reigning Masters' champion Bubba Watson, who played his first practice round at Royal Lytham on Monday, has already formulated a strategy for the championship, which starts Thursday.

"It looks like we're going to hit a lot of irons off of tees, try to play safer, smarter, whatever you want to call it, and just have a longer shot into some of these holes," said the long-hitting lefty from Bagdad, Fla.

"The par-5, No. 7, I'm going to hit iron off that tee even though I could reach it if I hit it in the fairway with a driver. I have to figure out a way to lay back and just have a longer shot into some of these holes.

"That doesn't mean I'm going to be able to do that," Watson said with a smile. "That's my goal."

Preliminary weather forecasts for the upcoming week call for temperatures in the mid- to high-60s, with a high of 77 for Sunday's final round. Also predicted are for some dry days and others with a significant amount of rain, with winds likely to be in the moderate range.

In other words, typical Open Championship conditions.