It’s a tournament known as the FA Cup of Darts, and it is one that is much beloved on the circuit. The UK Open, hosted by Butlins Minehead of all places, features a completely open draw from round one, and as such anybody can play anybody else without the protection of seeding. So a chap who qualified from the pub qualifiers could go from playing at the Dog & Duck to tackling Michael van Gerwen in front of thousands of people!
The upshot for punters is that this tournament is perhaps the most likely for an upset; and by an upset we mean MVG not actually winning it.
But yes, the Dutchman has prevailed in the last two hostings of the event – beating Peter Wright consecutively 11-5 and 11-4 – and so is the man o beat once again. But if he draws Gary Anderson or Raymond van Barneveld in the early rounds? It would be some effort for him to complete the hat-trick.
Other former champions of the UK Open include Adrian Lewis (not a prolific title winner besides his two world crowns), Robert Thornton and Roland Scholten, with players as diverse as Barrie Bates, Mark Walsh, Colin Osborne and Wes Newton all reaching the final. Our theory is that this is a tournament where we can risk a few loose pennies, each way, on some huge-priced outsiders reaching the final.
And as if by magic….
Dark Horses and Dangerous Outsiders
Six of the last eight semi-finalists at the UK Open had been playing in the Premier League that year, and so our first two jollies are James Wade (33/1) and Jelle Klaasen (80/1).
Wade is a two-time UK Open champion and the format suits him: he very rarely plays badly, which means any opponent needs to play well to beat him. In the dizzying atmospherics of Butlins, and in the short format, The Machine will take some stopping.
And given his ability to outscore pretty much anyone on the planet, Jelle Klaasen has to come into consideration too. He’s playing well at the moment, picking up his first Premier League win last week plus a semi-final appearance in the Players’ Championship event on Sunday. Plus he reached the last four here 12 months ago, so the stars are aligning for the Cobra.
If you’re looking for a Leicester City style fairytale story (before the dream turned into a nightmare), then perhaps Daryl Gurney (100/1) or Cristo Reyes (200/1) are worth a try.
The Irishman has been threatening to break through for a while now, and his run to the quarter finals at the World Championships was backed by some mature displays (when he wasn’t bating the crowd). That hand injury is a thing of the past and 2017 looks set to a breakout year for Gurney. What better tournament to announce himself on the big stage than this?
And Reyes is an interesting proposition: his ability to hammer the treble 20 bed makes him a danger to anyone. We can say with some certainly that nobody will want to draw him in the early rounds here. The Spaniard lost 5-6 twice in the Players Championship events at the weekend to James Wade and Peter Wright respectively, and if his draw is kinder in Butlins then who knows how far he can go.