Let Battle Commence in Bolton
The contrast is never as stark in the PDC’s calendar than between the ending of the Premier League and the return of the UK Open. Whilst one celebrates the very cream of the sport’s crop, the latter encourages the underdog to have its day and lap up that cream as vigorously as possible.
The moniker of the FA Cup of darts is an accurate one as although there will be shocks along the way, and you will see runners -up in the UK Open that you won’t see in any other major tournament, the winners tend to come from the real big boys, just as it is in the footballing world.
Since its 2003 inception there have only been four winners of the tournament, and there are no prizes for guessing that three of them are Taylor, Wade and Barney. The only real shock came in 2004 when Roland Scholten picked up £30,000 and his first major title. As mentioned, there have been some intriguing finalists though, and it is a great chance for any man in form to make a bid for glory, as the likes of Barrie Bates, Gary Mawson and Shayne Burgess have in the past, reaching the final in Bolton.
This could well be the case again this time out with the free draw that takes place each round potentially drawing giants against each other, but the bookies can still not really look past one man. He might not be the odds-on favourite for major tournaments that he has been in the past, but most odds available on Phil Taylor picking up a fifth UK title are still skinny. The best we can do is the 2/1 Coral are offering and to be honest, after his dominance during the Premier League this looks pretty generous.
In terms of some value bets in the winners market, World Championship runner-up and Premier League semi-finalist Andy Hamilton is all the way out at 40/1 to prosper in the North-West. The Hammer has shown he can compete with the very best over the last six months and that looks a great each-way punt to me.
It may also be worth a dabble on the bang in-form Dave Chisnall who’s wins in Crawley at the end of last month have seen him reach £30,000 for the year on the Pro Tour Order of Merit; not shabby work at all before he has stepped in front of the television cameras in 2012. His best price of 25/1 with Bet Fred looks a good one, especially for a man who has proved he can beat the Power.
There are some performances to look out for as well from the PDC new boys with the likes of Dean Winstanley, Ted Hankey and the West brothers competing in their first majors since the switch from the BDO. Plenty is expected of Winstanley especially and if he can settle into his task well then his price of 80/1 with bet365 could be made to look a bit silly.
The competition gets underway on Thursday night, and although a lot of the big guns don’t take to the stage till Friday there are some tasty matches to look forward to from the start. Particularly eye-catching ties on the opening night are Antonio Alcinas taking on Mark Hylton, Co Stompe facing Alan Tabern and one clash between two very exciting youngsters in Mareno Michels and Shaun Griffiths.
178 players travel to Bolton in search of glory, only one will find it, let battle commence.
• Can anyone cut the Power?
• Chisnall v Van Barneveld: One for the Ages
• Newton v Thornton: The Warrior's Way
• Accumulate to Accumulate
• Painter v Monk: Monk could make victory a habit
• Van Barneveld v Klaasen: Dutch Royalty Clash
• Michels v Griffiths: Miracles can happen
• Stompe v Tabern: Co can stomp out Saint
• Hylton v Alcinas: Beware the Spanish Inquisition