12 MONTHS ago we faced a unique situation that we watched a Darts Major on our screens behind closed doors and without fans that had made it through the beast from the east storm.
Twelve months later, we have no UK qualifiers this time around, as Barry Hearn introduced that the top 128 would not need to qualify and would be joined by 16 Riley's qualifiers and the top 16 from the Challenge Tour Order of Merit.
Corey Cadby has had to miss this event, making up a 159 man field looking for the winners cheque of £100,000 in a completely open draw. In previous years Rob Cross made his mark three years ago playing MVG as an amateur qualifier and had a nine dart finish hit against him.
With the size of the field, sponsors Ladbrokes, alongside Betfair and Betfred have offered each way odds of a quarter odds for the first four places, so if your man gets to the semi final, expect a return. Thinking it may be unlikely, we had David Pallet and Robert Owen making the semi finals last year alongside Corey Cadby and eventual winner Gary Anderson.
Anderson will be returning from time off for back treatment and is 9/1 with many firms to retain his title. Michael van Gerwen could be swerved at 10/11 on the basis of the blind draw. Rob Cross is 18/1 with the bar 20/1 or bigger for all the rest.
With the top 32 coming in at the third round stage, rounds one and two toes the oche from 11am on Friday, with main stage action beginning from midday on ITV4 in the UK.
With a completely blind draw, picking out a large price player such as Durrant at 33/1 might give some mileage, however, with the games in question, may land the prize for us.
There are a limited array of outright markets, such as an odds on for no nine dart finish chalked at just 4/6. With the size of the field, this surprises me that layers opinions are turning the tide to rewarding the punter with a successful outcome and is 11/10 with sponsors Ladbrokes.
Looking at the first couple of rounds,Luke Humphries, who played brilliantly as the contender player in the Premier League last night played out of his skin to earn a 6-6 draw with Gerwyn Price in Exeter and is 4/5 to knock off Vincent Van der Voort on the big stage. My feelings are the volume of crowd at the arena Friday afternoon, as it is clear that Humphries thrives the atmosphere.
However the veteran instincts of Vincent should not allow this game to get too far out of reach. Layers suggest this will be won 6-3 or fewer by either player, but evens for over 9.5 legs. Luke took time to get going against Price and think if the crowd are nowhere near atmosphere capacity, may influence the rhythm.
Richard North can be relied on to take Ronny Huybrechts to an early exit. both players have not been in the best of form coming into this, but feel North is heading in the right direction from a sound 2018 campaign.
- Humphries/Voort – over 9.5 legs 1/1 Sportingbet 1pt
- North to beat Ronny Huybrechts – 4/6 Blacktype 1.5 pts