One of Darts most exciting tournaments gets underway this weekend, the UK Open, which will be played out at Butlins’ Minehead Resort in Somerset. The action will be broadcast live on ITV4.
It’s a complex tournament consisting of 160 players. 16 come from the PDC Challenge Tour and 16 more ‘amateurs’ are in the opening round having won qualifying events in one of Riley’s Sports Bars across the UK. They will be joined by the players ranked 97-128 in the PDC Order of Merit.
The winners progress to the second round where the next 32 players on the PDC Order of Merit will be waiting. The next 32 join the party in the following round and so on. Ultimately the top-32 players in the world will enter the fray in the fourth round. By which time many of the ‘banana skin’ players will have departed and the FA Cup-style round-by-round draw becomes unimportant.
It means, as has always been the case, a top-ranked player will prevail and its foolish looking outside the top-32. Normally I’d say the top-12 but there are some excellent players on their way up and a lot on the way down right now.
Michael Smith has had surgery on a leg abscess this week and has been playing below par during the past few weeks anyway. Rob Cross is operating at 90 percent of his best since peaking 15 months ago. Peter Wright is also below par and is never one to trust in a major final if/when making one.
Jonny Clayton, Joe Cullen, Jeffrey de Zwaan and Max Hopp are all relative
youngsters and have recently enjoyed deep runs in major competitions, claiming some notable scalps along the way. De Zwaan actually eliminated Michael van Gerwen (MVG) in this competition 12 months ago and accounted for him again in the World Matchplay. I suggest backing all of the above for small stakes at big prices (66/1+).
Wade is posting excellent figures in the Premier League right now and won two big tournaments towards the back-end of 2018.
Price has become the second best player of the pack for me, backed-up by some outstanding scoring (and 14 straight wins) in Players Championships last weekend and he too has recently won a major (in controversial circumstances against Gary Anderson who is currently suffering from a back injury – so another ‘avoid’).
Of course the elephant in this story is MVG. He’s a machine and his record and current form justifies his industry top-price of 10/11. But he is not unbeatable – as we saw last year – and he’s certainly not going to make you rich.
James Wade @ 40/1 generally.