In winning his 16th world title in January Phil Taylor reaffirmed his place at the forefront of what has become his sport. The top dog, the man to beat, the ayatollah of rock and rolla. It's the only position that Taylor knows.
Six months on and he's having to come to terms with being number two. While The Power's triumph at Alexandra Palace may have extended his remarkable roll of honour in the sport, it merely delayed the inevitable of his gradual demise.Taylor's obituary has been written countless times before, and every time he has come back with the answers. This time is different. And it's all because of one man. Michael van Gerwen.
Previously when discussing Taylor's potential demise it has been more about his own standards slipping. This time it's about MVG raising the bar to another level. To a different darting stratosphere.
Taylor still, when on song, has the game that he has possessed for most of his career. The problem, for Taylor, is that Van Gerwen is now playing at a level that not even he can reach. And that is having a knock-on effect to the Power's all-round game and persona. He's no longer the man that they all need to beat; he's no longer the biggest scalp in any give tournament. Which is why, I believe, we are seeing him perform well below par on a much more regular basis. It's not in the 16-time world champion's make-up to play second fiddle.
And that is quite strongly reflected in the betting. Van Gerwen leads the way as the clear 2.9 favourite, with Taylor lagging behind as second favourite at odds as big as 4.5. I can't remember a time in the last 15-20 years, if indeed there has been, where the Power has been available to back at such big odds pre-tournament.
Mighty Mike continued his incredible season at the weekend with his 10th title of 2013, and his fifth tournament victory in a row, adding the Austrian Open to the Dubai Masters, European Darts Open, Premier League and a Pro Tour event crown; a run of 23 consecutive victories.
That's the level of form that Taylor was showing in his pomp, and it won't be long before we start seeing MVG at odds-on prices for every major tournament. Take advantage of the 2.9s while you can.
That said. When betting on the UK Open, because of the nature of the event, it's always worth having a few quid on a couple of big -price outsiders. The open draw format means that we often see a surprise finalist here – Shayne Burgess, Barrie Bates, Vincent van der Voort, Gary Mawson and Colin Osborne are all former UK Open runners-up.
Of those at bigger odds with an ‘outside chance', Jamie Caven is worth a few quid at around 80.0. Jabba wonback-to-back Players Championship events a fortnight ago – MVG, Taylor and a lot of other top players weren't involved due to the Dubai Masters – and reached the European Darts Open semi-finals earlier in the month. If he can transfer his floor form to the main stage, something he has often struggled to do, and if the draw is kind then he could have a good run here.
Wes Newton also looks overpriced at around 46.0. The world number seven obviously didn't take to the Premier League at first and that dented his confidence somewhat. But he grew into the tournament as it progressed, albeit too late in the day to prevent an early relegation/elimination, and looked in good nick at the Dubai Masters when losing, unashamedly, to MVG.
The Warrior was a beaten finalist here in 2011, and again with a kind draw and a few wins to get his confidence going, he looks to have a much better chance than the odds suggest.
- 5 points – Back MVG to win @ 2.9
- 0.5 points – Back Newton to win @ 46.0
- 0.5 points – Back Caven to win @ 80.0