The Coral UK Open is one of many darts fan’s favorite events. The only TV tournament that offers a random draw, re done after every round, and genuine opportunity for newer faces and genuine amateur players to make a name for themselves.
With seven different winners and a different runner-up in every event, thirteen in total, the UK Open provides much-needed variety and interest. It has become known as The FA Cup of Darts!
The last few years have seen the event screened by iTV4. This years edition takes place from Friday March 4th – Sunday March 6th and thus reaches a large audience of terrestrial viewers.
Qualifying routes, for both 96 PDC “Professional” players and 32 places secured through winning open knock out events in Riley’s sports bars across the UK, the field of 128 contains a mix of players from all walks of life as well as the many start names of modern TV darts. Taylor, MVG, and Anderson will all be there in the later stages.
The event takes place over three intense days and sees play on multiple boards that can be covered, or switched too, for moments of high drama. The two main stages provide live TV and streamed matches and are often scheduled to give lesser known faces or interesting matches greater exposure.
Players are scheduled to come into the draw at various stages, over the first two days of the event, with the higher ranked professionals entering in the last 64 stage. A good number of David vs Goliath match ups results, as well as star players meeting different, and sometimes tougher, competition at earlier stages than in many major events.
Several star names will be seen earlier than usual on Friday. Wes Newton , a former finalist, will open up the main stage and former Champion Robert Thornton will appear a few matches later. Both should have enough to win their first games, although Mark Cox could trouble Wes, if he settles quickly, and the winner of Aaron Monk v Stuart Rattray will have had the benefit of playing a match before taking on The Thorn.
There are some good-looking clashes scattered around the outside boards. The vastly experienced, and resurgent, Mick McGowen will take on World Youth Championship runner-up Nathan Aspinall and former world number five, Dennis Smith will take on Alex Roy in a battle of the young veterans!
The group of Amateur / Rileys qualifiers is as strong as it has ever been for the 2016 event. Several former PDC players have used this route. Alex Roy has been an almost ever-present in the UK Open and has played in more than fifteen world championships. Peter Hudson has extensive experience on both PDC tours and has had several great moments at this event. Steve Maish, Jason Hogg, Ian McFarlane, John Scott and Daniel Day also have extensive PDC experience.
In addition, to these more seasoned players, some very strong players are coming through after “learning their trade”. Andy Brown has huge talent and, having taken some time to re group, could be a serious threat. Darren Layden will give it nothing less than 110% and if he shows his true ability could worry many. Mike McFall is lesser known to many but, at his best, has competed with world-class players before. Paul Hogan always seems to enjoy success at the UK Open and will be joined from the BDO ranks by recent England cap Dave Parletti.
The Delderfield Dream!
Hidden in among these players of great talent is a potential sporting fairytale to cap them all. Larry Butlers’s recent resurgence would be nothing if Les Delderfield could reproduce the form he showed in the Liverpool qualifying event. Many there described “an old bloke having the day of his darting life”, however they should have checked their darting history books! Les was a semi finalist in the World Masters in 1997! Les has had the longest stop start career you are likely to see. Some superb results, in events often five or more years apart, with nothing in between, make a very unusual story. Let’s hope for more, on this superb tale, if Les can get deeper into the event. If you fancy keeping an eye on a potential super story then look out for Les on board six in the first round, were he plays another qualifier in Mark Wilson.
Overall then, the early rounds are looking as interesting as always for the darts fan. For the casual viewer there are some good stage games on the first night and a few possible shocks. But for those willing to look a little closer there are some great stories and at least one possible darting legend!
Look out for Part II where we will see who has survived and how the big boys are likely to make out.