Darts guru Ben Levene (@benlevene96) looks ahead to this weekend's UK Open.
UK Open | 2nd March-4th March 2018 | ITV4
Often referred to as the ‘FA Cup of Darts’, the UK Open is the first major event of the calendar year. The Minehead crowd gather as amateur qualifiers have the opportunity to have a crack against the best.
Eligible players on the PDC circuit play a series of six UK Open qualifiers in aim of ending in the top 96 of the UK Open Order of Merit. At the end of the six qualifiers, the top 32 ranked players earn the right to start in the third round, the next 32 begin in the second round, while the final 32 start in the first round.
Another 32 places are given to amateur qualifiers who compete in local Riley events. These players enter in the first round. So in total 128 players will compete in the event which runs from Friday to Sunday.
The unique format of the draw makes this competition an interesting betting heat. Unlike most seeded tournaments, the draw is completely round, in the style of the FA Cup. So the top players could meet each other along the way at any point. There is no planned route.
As a result of this, there looks a good opportunity to steer away from the top of the market and indulge in some bigger price value.
I wrote in my preview of the Masters that I was expecting a big year from Michael Smith. He was eliminated in the opening round on that occasion, but it will take a lot more than that to put me off. I’m convinced things are beginning to click for Bully Boy. He’s thriving in the Premier League and is starting to play with consistency on the floor.
So far in 2018, Smith has a win, a final and a quarter final and two last 16’s in eight floor events this year. He’s always had the natural talent, but the elite level experience is beginning to pay dividends. Smith has already beaten Michael Van Gerwen, Peter Wright and Gary Anderson in 2018, and at 28/1 looks worth chancing.
Corey Cadby is a player I’ve had my eye on for this event for a while now. He’s in an unusual situation as he only won a tour card this January, yet his playing level is of a top-ten player in the World. There is no doubt in my mind that this time next year we’ll see him competing in the Premier League.
Prior to winning a tour card, Cadby had already beaten the likes of Phil Taylor, Raymond Van Barneveld, Peter Wright and Michael Smith on TV by the tender age of 22. He also beat BDO World Champion, Glen Durrant, live on Sky in his last televised match in November.
At Q-school he impressively came through a field of 512 players at the first time of asking, and as a PDC professional has recorded a win, final, quarter-final and a last 32 in eight events over the last month and a half.
This goes a long way to indicating the level and consistency of his game, and it won’t be long until we see him competing with the elite. Moreover, he’s a showman and has previously stated he prefers playing on the big stage.
This price is just pure bonkers. I backed Adrian Lewis for this event at 66/1 a few-weeks back, and the 50/1 about him currently remains too big.
The two-time World Champion has had a poor couple of years due to laziness. Now done to number 20 in the World, Jackpot has a point to prove and that makes him a massive danger. So far in 2018, he’s shown signs that he’s putting in the practice and finding form.
He’s reached a semi-final, two quarter-finals and two last 32’s in the six floor events he’s played so far this season. He also went through a day of European Tour qualification unbeaten during February. Last season he didn’t even play on the Euro Tour, so this shows he’s determined to get back to the top of the game. Like I said earlier, it’s been application and work-rate that has proved a problem for Lewis, not ability.
This major offers big prize money and a cracking opportunity for Lewis to climb back up the rankings.
Along similar lines, James Wade also has a point to prove. The two-time UK Open winner was excluded from the Premier League after a poor couple of years. The UK Open offers him a great chance to grab Barry Hearn’s attention.
After his win against Simon Whitlock, Wade admitted that he’d had personal problems, but suggested they’d been sorted and that he believe his game was in a good place. His action looks improved as he’s getting his elbow much higher.
Wade reached the final of the first Players Championship even this year and reached a quarter-final at the UK Open qualifiers. All it takes is for The Machine to avoid the likes of Van Gerwen and Anderson, and then you’ve got a serious 100/1 shot.
After an underwhelming 2017, Kim Huybrechts has been working hard to get his game back intact. The Hurricane has been going to Wayne Mardle to work on his action and in a 10-6 loss to Van Gerwen at The Masters, he produced some exhibition stuff that very few are capable of.
He’s played consistently this year, reaching a semi-final, quarter-final, three last 16’s and two last 32’s in the eight floor events this year.
He has a pretty good record in the UK Open too, improving each year. In the last four tournaments he’s reached the fourth round, fifth round, fifth round and most recently the quarter-final. He was knocked out by MVG on two of those occasions.
The former Premier League competitor looks another big priced shot worth chancing.
UK Open – Michael Smith each-way (28/1 Boylesports)
UK Open – Corey Cadby each-way (28/1 William Hill)
UK Open – Adrian Lewis each-way (50/1 SkyBet)
UK Open – James Wade each-way (100/1 Bet365)
UK Open – Kim Huybrechts each-way (100/1 Bet365)