Clarke anticipating tough Open test

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Darren Clarke admits the forecasted inclement weather, penal rough and numerous bunkers at Royal Lytham and St Annes will cause the players plenty of challenges at this week's Open Championship.

The 43-year-old, who won the Claret Jug at Royal St George's last year, is braced for tough conditions as he seeks to defend his title on the Lancashire coast.

"The course is going to play really tough this week. It's quite narrow. The rough is very, very penal and we're forecasted some rough weather. But that's The Open Championship, I think. That's what we expect, and that's what we're going to get. If conditions are tough, that doesn't particularly bother me. That's fine," he said.

The course features an incredible 205 bunkers across the layout, and the Northern Irishman revealed that they would certainly penalise wayward shots.

"It's just a nightmare, because there are 205 of them. They're very penal, they're very tough, those bunkers. They've reverted a lot of the faces so some of them are a little more penal than others. You know there's going to be occasions here this week where I think you're going to have to see guys taking penalty drops out of them because they won't be able to move their ball anywhere," he added.

"Accuracy is going to be key this week. It's not really length off the  tee, it's keeping it on the fairways, and keeping it out of those bunkers. They are very, very strategically-placed, so you've got to be careful with them. When they get damp, it's very tough to spin the ball out of the bunkers, especially the greenside ones."

Since winning his first Major 12 months ago, Clarke has struggled for form but hopes this week will be the catalyst for an upsurge in results.

"It's obviously a lot easier to have fun and a lot of joy when you're holing some putts: it's a bit of a Catch 22. My whole game has been very, very average to tell you the truth. It's an ongoing process for any guy that you ask here. You go through spells when you putt well and spells where you don't. Patience is obviously something I've had to have an awful lot of this past year, and maybe this week things will turn around and I'll start knocking a few in," he said.

Clarke begins his title defence alongside South African Ernie Els and American Zach Johnson at 0909 on Thursday morning.