PETER Wright will attempt to retain his title, but he's the fourth favourite with sponsors Coral as he battles through the 128-man field at Butlin's Minehead Resort this weekend.
The Scot claimed his maiden TV title 12 months ago with success in the UK Open, defeating Gerwyn Price in the final, but some say the absence of a few names made his path easier. However, staring down the barrel is the 2015 and 2016 champion Michael van Gerwen is the 8/11 odds-on favourite with sponsors Coral as he looks to follow up five other tournament wins already in 2018 with another victory.
Other highlighted outrights include World Champion Rob Cross and 2010 UK Open finalist Gary Anderson who are the 7/1 joint second favourites, with two-time UK Open winner Raymond van Barneveld rated a 22/1 shot and current Premier League leader Michael Smith at 25/1.
Australian debutant Corey Cadby joins Daryl Gurney at 28/1, while 2014 winner Adrian Lewis is 40/1 and two-time champion James Wade joins Price at 66/1 to go all the way this weekend.
With the first and second rounds taking place during the afternoon session, the exciting third round open draw can throw up many juicy battles. Rounds one and two have thrown up some cracking ties, which would have been considered in latter stages of events only a few short years.
Returning to the stage in what can be said to be a record difficult to beat is amateur player Alex Roy, who won his Riley’s qualifier. Another name, who has caused all sorts of shocks over recent appearances is Basingstoke’s Paul “Crocodile Dundee” Hogan. One name that returns for the first time since 2013 is John Part and sadly one name, whose streak of appearing at every event since its inception has ended is Kevin Painter, who did not quite make the points required to secure his place.
- First round (Friday afternoon): The 32 Rileys qualifiers and players ranked 65-96 in the UK Open Order of Merit start the tournament. Best of 11 legs.
- Second round (Friday afternoon): Players ranked 33-64 in the UK Open Order of Merit join the 32 winners of the first round. Best of 11 legs
- Third round (Friday night): The top 32 in the UK Open Order of Merit join the 32 winners of the second round. Best of 19 legs.
- Fourth round (Saturday afternoon): Best of 19 legs.
- Fifth round (Saturday night): Best of 19 legs.
- Quarter-finals (Sunday afternoon): Best of 19 legs.
- Semi-finals (Sunday night): Best of 21 legs.
- Final (Sunday night): Best of 21 legs.
Looking at the outright betting, only the winner’s market has been priced, with no additional antepost markets such as 170 and 9-dart finishes. Both last year failed to land.
Looking at some of the first round games, some bigger names of recent times clash, such as Terry Jenkins and Paul Nicholson. Jenkins who contemplated retirement last year reappears and is best priced 8/11 with Coral to beat the former Player’s Champion Nicho, who can be generally backed at 5/4. An all European clash between Benito van de Pas and Cristo Reyes may be attracted to the Spaniard after Benito’s form and confidence in recent times had nosedived.
Ritchie Burnett makes his welcomed return to face Ryan Harrington (son of Rod) and is 4/6 to see off the youthful Harrington at 13/8. Willie ‘O Connor is short at 8/13 to knock out Andy Hamilton (6/4) who qualified as an amateur to get to the event. Also Alex Roy can beat Mark Walsh in a potential cracker, where Walsh is the narrow favourite, but with Roy’s successive appearances and love for the event may just get over the line at 21/20.