Rory McIlroy in action in practice on Monday. Picture via McIlroy is bracing himself for the battle to become king of the jungle at Royal Lytham this week.

Tiger Woods’ jaw dropped when he turned up on Sunday and declared the rough “unplayable” in spots.

And McIlroy backed him up, describing some of the heavy rough as serious jungle after losing a ball in practice yesterday.

Rory said: “The rough is brutal. It’s jungle out there in spots. I missed a tee shot right on 14 and it was a lost ball. There are a few really bad spots that you just want to avoid.

“If you just go into the rough by a couple of yards, it’s okay. But if you spray it off line at all, you are in big trouble.”

Defending champion Darren Clarke reckons that rough is so bad that even with an army of ball-spotters, dozens of balls will disappear without trace.

Clarke said: “If you start spraying the ball around this week, you might as well go home. There’s no chance coming out of this rough at all.

“There are a few places where balls will be lost even with spotters and everything.

“And even if they do find the balls in some of those areas, I don’t know if you’ll be able to take a full swing and move it.”

Battered by two practice rounds, Clarke added: “There’s a few patches out there where it’s just absolutely brutal. The grass is quite thick and not quite what we would expect on a links. It’s really, really tough.

“Some of the longer par-fours are going to play into the wind and obviously if you start missing the fairways there you’re really going to struggle.

“So it’s a big challenge. There’s a really huge premium on accuracy this week.”

McIlroy believes he will still have an advantage over most of the field this week because he knows the course so well.

Insisting he’s right up for the challenge, Rory roared: “I love it here, always have from amateur days.

“I played in the Lytham Trophy twice and finished third both times and also played a British Amateur here, so I probably know it better than a lot of the guys in the field.

“It’s just a very fair set-up – good shots get rewarded and bad ones get punished. And thankfully, I’ve been hitting plenty of good ones. I’m very happy with the state of my game just now.

“If I had to pick one thing I like best about this course it would be that the handcuffs are off when you step onto the tee.

“You’re not restricted to one shot – you can hit driver, two iron, pretty much anything you like on most of those holes. There are so many options.

“You can get creative, and use you imagination. I really enjoy that.”

McIlroy reckons that having Michael Bannon as his full time coach is starting to pay dividends and that can only help his chances of lifting his first Claret Jug

He said: “It’s been a big help for sure. You can try to work things out over the phone, and by sending video clips back and forth, but it’s not the same.

“You want that instant input to check what you’re working on is coming together.

“No-one knows my swing like he does, and just having him around is tremendously reassuring.”

McIlroy has been working hard on his putting since the Irish Open so he can adjust to slower green speeds.

But he knows that bunker play will be huge with 205 traps lurking on the links this week.

Clarke reckons some of the fairway traps are so deep that players will be forced to take penalty drops.

The Ulsterman said: “It’s just a nightmare. They’ve revetted a lot of the faces, so some of them are a little bit more penal than others.

“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.

“They are a huge part of this golf course. It’s very heavily bunkered in the landing areas where we really need to hit the ball.

“Accuracy is going to be the key this week. It’s not really length off the key, it’s keeping it on the fairways, and keeping it out of those bunkers.”