It is the first weekend in March which means that the leading darts players on the planet will head to Minehead for the UK Open, the first ranking TV event of 2022 and one which runs from Friday afternoon through to Sunday evening.
James Wade took the glory when he defeated Luke Humphries in the final last year and he’ll attempt to make a successful defence of the title but anyone who is anyone in the darts world is here and will hope to take the trophy off him.
2021 – James Wade
2020 – Michael van Gerwen
2019 – Nathan Aspinall
2018 – Gary Anderson
2017 – Peter Wright
2016 – Michael van Gerwen
2015 – Michael van Gerwen
2014 – Adrian Lewis
2013 – Phil Taylor
2012 – Robert Thornton
The 128 players who have tour cards all enter the tournament this year. There have been no qualifying series for them. There have however been 16 pub qualifying events for those who are chasing the dream. Challenge Tour and Development Tour stars also get their chance to mix it with the professionals this week.
The non-tour players go into the first round against the pros ranked 97-128 on the order of merit with the winners going into the second round where players ranked 65-96 join the event. The 32 winners of that round are joined by players ranked 33-64. All these matches are the best of 11 legs and the 32 winners are joined by the top 32 in the world for round four which sees the format go up to the best of 19. The format stays the same for the last 16 and quarter finals before going up to the best of 21 for the semi-finals and final. From round four onwards there is a completely random draw like in the football equivalent of the FA Cup.
Gerwyn Price is setting a pretty good standard at the minute and the former world champion is a 9/2 shot to add the UK Open crown to the International Darts Open trophy he picked up in Germany last week. He lost early in the Premier League on Thursday night which will act as a reminder that he isn’t infallible but he certainly appears to be the one to beat, although whether you want to take a short price given that the draw isn’t laid out like it is in a normal event would be the only question of doubt.
Michael van Gerwen won in top form in the Premier League on Thursday evening and he is 7/1 to get his hands on this title once again. I would imagine plenty will be all over that like a rash if his consistency could be guaranteed but it has been a while since we have seen him be consistent. Nevertheless, a confident MVG is a dangerous one and if he isn’t going to be confident after winning against three of the best players in the world he never will be. He’s a fair price but could go very well here.
The world champion Peter Wright is another who is up and down. He lost out to van Gerwen in the final of the Premier League evening on Thursday and also lost out to Gerwyn Price in the final of the European Tour event at the weekend so he is in decent form, but once again the question is whether 7/1 is value in a tournament where the draw isn’t known and could throw Wright in with Price and MVG in the fourth and fifth rounds technically. I wouldn’t be surprised if Wright is winning the title on Sunday evening but overall his Minehead record isn’t that strong which puts me off.
Jonny Clayton is the fourth favourite to win the tournament this weekend. He is 15/2 to come out on top and while he is one of the leading players in the world, there is a feeling that he has just come off the top of his game. He certainly won’t be winning this if he isn’t in top form, nobody will, but I guess for class acts form is like a tap. He has tended to win when he has been slightly under the radar of the big three though and that isn’t the case at present. Again if he wins I won’t be surprised but I’m not certain he will at the same time.
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I’ll take a couple of main bets this weekend. All my bets will be with firms who are paying to four places. The first is Dimitri Van den Bergh. The Belgian is respectable value at 25/1 this weekend. He sits at number 12 on the pro tour averages and made the semi-final of the last Players Championship event where he went down to Joe Cullen who was just on fire that weekend. Twice in that event Van den Bergh averaged over 100 and he made the quarter final in the European Tour event last week and averaged over 99 for the weekend until a mare on his doubles saw him lose out to Jonny Clayton. The longer format here should account for the doubling issues and with Dimi scoring like he is I think he’s a major player this weekend.
Dave Chisnall has started 2022 well. He was a runner up to Joe Cullen in The Masters at the beginning of the year and sits at 11 on the pro tour averages, making the quarter final of the last Players Championship event. Chisnall was a quarter finalist here last year but has made the semi-final of this event in the past. He has also reached the final of the Players Championship Finals so he is someone who can get on well with Minehead. Chisnall looked decent enough in the World Championship until Covid took hold of him and forced him to withdraw but he can make up for that with another deep run here if the draw is kind.
I’ll also take four outsiders at big prices this week. Daryl Gurney always seems to go well in Minehead. He has twice made the last four of this competition and he has won the Players Championship Finals and been to the last four of that event as well so these multi-board events in Butlins get his juices flowing. Gurney sits just outside the top 20 on the pro tour averages this season but he has made a quarter final and a semi-final on the floor already this term. In those four Players Championship events it has taken Luke Humphries twice, Joe Cullen and Dimitri Van den Bergh to beat him. If the draw can be kind he could go deep this weekend.
Stephen Bunting actually sits ninth on the pro tour averages, averaging 97.52 for the season across his 15 matches. That includes four ton plus averages and another seven over 95. He was a quarter finalist of the second Players Championship event and has wins over Gary Anderson, Dimitri Van den Bergh and Simon Whitlock on his CV this term. Bunting is another who seems to enjoy Minehead. He is a UK Open semi-finalist and twice a quarter finalist in the Players Championship Finals. He’s in decent form and with a nice draw he can make good progress this week.
I wouldn’t usually back players who are in from the first round in this tournament but there are a couple of bonkers prices that I can’t ignore here. Josh Rock is 350/1 and Mario Vandenbogaerde even bigger at 500/1. Rock has dominated the early stages of the Development Tour, winning two of the three events and making the final of the other. He has three tom plus averages on that circuit and another three over 97. He hasn’t won a match in the four Players Championship events this season but in defeat he has averaged 93.06, 102.39, 98.12 and 101.89. If he throws to that level here he could fly a long way. Vandenbogaerde is a very good player. He sits at 19 on the pro tour averages with a couple of ton plus averages and three more over 96 in just seven matches. Like everyone else I’ve backed, with a fair draw he might get through to Sunday and then it is game on from there.
Back D.Van den Bergh to win UK Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with William Hill (1/4 1-4)
Back D.Chisnall to win UK Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with William Hill (1/4 1-4)
Back them here:
Back D.Gurney to win UK Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Coral (1/4 1-4)
Back S.Bunting to win UK Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Coral (1/4 1-4)
Back M.Vandenbogaerde to win UK Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 501.00 with Coral (1/4 1-4)
Back them here:
Back J.Rock to win UK Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 351.00 with Sky Bet (1/4 1-4)