The first televised PDC event since January’s Darts Masters gets underway this Friday as the players make their return to the Marshall Arena in Milton Keynes for this year’s renewal of the UK Open.
Considered by many in the game to be the FA Cup of Darts, the UK Open runs from March 5 through 7 at the temporary venue, which will also host the first round of this year’s Darts Premier League, instead of its usual home at the Butlin’s Minehead Resort.
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The tourney carries its nickname due to the fact the players go unseeded and the format is a random draw, just like the football tournament.
We don’t currently have a great deal of recent results to draw betting inspiration from. Our past two tournaments have been one by Welsh World Cup winning duo Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton, who picked up the Masters a month ago and with it the final Premier League spot.
Reigning champion and now world number two Michael van Gerwen will be back to retain the crown he banked when he beat World Champion Price in the final a year ago.
It is likely that for rest of this year, and possibly well beyond, those two will be jostling for bragging rights. They will also be favoured pair for every tournament, but because of the open format, they could meet at any point this weekend rather than being seeded all the way to another final.
Fittingly as snooker welcomes back former great Stephen Hendry from retirement, the PDC will welcome back our own hero when Raymond van Barneveld makes his return at the Marshall. Barney gets a bye for round one and has been drawn against Alan Soutar in round two.
Players ranked in the world’s top 32 will join the competition in the fourth round and the draw will be made at the end of the previous round.
Despite losing his place at the top of the darting tree, Michael van Gerwen has been installed as the 4/1 favourite for the Open. Even though he hasn’t picked up silverware in a while, that still represents as good a value as we have seen on the Dutchman in quite some time and is definitely worth considering.
Similarly, world number one Gerwyn Price is a 5/1 shot, which given his form over the past season must surely be too good to turn down. Of course, decent prices on those two mean that there are superb odds to be sniffed out further down the line.
It’s hard to ignore the 33/1 offered at bet365 for 2019 champion Nathan Aspinall for example. Or the same price offered on James Wade, another former UK Open winner, is another one that catches the eye.
Elsewhere, Peter Wright can be backed at 9/1 and Dimitri van den Bergh is at 20s.
For the romantics out there, the returning Raymond is 60/1 as the 2021 PDC darts season finally begins to creek into motion.
QUICK GLANCE AT THE PDC UK OPEN 2021
Venue: Marshall Arena, Milton Keynes
Dates: February 5 – February 7
Format: Best of 11, 19, 21 legs
Current Champion: Michael van Gerwen
Where To Watch: ITV 4
When To Watch: (1245 and 1900 GMT)