It’s the FA Cup of darts, and as such one of the most-loved tournaments on the PDC circuit. The UK Open takes place this weekend at the ‘lively’ Butlins, Minehead complex, and 128 players of all shapes and sizes will do battle for the £60,000 top prize.
Qualifying heats have been taking place up and down the country, and the open format of the draw means there are no seedings; so somebody like Michael van Gerwen could play Gary Anderson in the third round (where the big guns enter the tournament) or even a pub player. That is where the intrigue comes in.
The UK Open has witnessed five different winners in as many years and no back-to-back champion since Phil Taylor in 2009-10. There has also been an incredible 13 different runners-up in as many years.
The reigning champ is Michael van Gerwen, who saw off Peter Wright 11-5 in last year’s final. The likes of Taylor, Adrian Lewis, James Wade and Raymond van Barneveld are also former champions and will be looking to have their name engraved on the trophy once again in 2016.
It’s a fantastic tournament to watch, and the unpredictability is right up punters’ street; in last year’s renewal the likes of Anderson and Lewis lost in the third round, Dave Chisnall in the fourth and Taylor in the fifth. Don’t forget the short format – it’s the first to five legs in the first three rounds – and so that lends itself to surprise results.
There has been some huge-priced runners-up coming through the draw over the years to earn their backers handsome each way payouts….and that will be our betting angle here too. The likes of Andy Hamilton, Barrie Bates and Gary Mawson – all 50/1 or over – have reached the final, and this shows that current form is as important as pedigree and class. Finding an outright winner won’t be easy, so we’re attempting to secure a surprise finalist at massive odds.
Don’t forget, each way bets will pay out on a final appearance, so that is our goal here.
Daryl Gurney (66/1)
Of the ‘non mainstream’ players that are currently competing in the Premier League, it is perhaps Gurney who has been the form horse of 2016 to date.
Around Christmas time he reached the last 32 of the World Championship, where he lost 1-4 to eventual champion Gary Anderson. Crucially, the Irishman had darts to win sets two and three alongside the one he did win.
Into 2016 and Gurney has already reached a ranking event title – the Dutch Darts Masters – where he beat Peter Wright, Adrian Lewis and Mensur Suljovic along the way. He averaged 105 and 106 in his quarter and semi-final matches respectively, before losing to MVG in the final.
Add into the mix a couple of quarter final appearances at tough UK Open Qualifiers, and you have a player bang in form.
Alan Norris (66/1)
He’s enjoyed a fine start to life on the PDC circuit and is already up to 35 in the world despite having switched from the BDO just a year ago.
We can attribute that largely to a last eight showing at the World Championships, although he did win a Players Championship event in Ireland late in 2015 and reached the final of UK Open Qualifier 2 in January.
A finalist of the BDO World Championship in 2014, Norris is renowned as a incredibly skilled ‘floor’ player – meaning events away from the big stage, but his showings in the World Championship reveal a player who is comfortable in front of the TV cameras too. He will enjoy the best of both worlds here.
Mensur Suljovic (66/1)
Despite his unusual style, Mensur Suljovic has really entered the upper echelon of darts in recent times. He has a cavalcade of semi-final appearances on his CV now, including at a number of ranking events (World Grand Prix, Players’ Championship Finals and the Dutch Darts Masters) as well as at UK Open Qualifier 5 just a matter of weeks ago.
The Austrian’s idiosyncratic throwing style makes him so hard to play – many have fallen by the wayside trying to slow down to his pace, and this awkwardness makes him a prime candidate in these short format matches.