Wednesday 27 February 2019

UK Open rounds 1-3 preview

Here it is, the annual big preview post, covering 127 players playing down to 32, for the right to play 31 of the best players in the world and Benito van de Pas.

All the points per turn and FRH rankings were taken earlier in the week, and the FRH ranking doesn't include any mincashing for this event. Don't rely on any of the points per turn scores for betting purposes, I'll be posting up the bets tomorrow, and some of them are based off very limited data, if there's any data at all, an awful lot of the Rileys qualifiers and Challenge Tour players have limited data, and some of the newer tour card holders aren't much better. If someone's score is the same for all of them, it's likely that they're a new card holder with no data prior to the worlds, hence there's not going to be a difference in data sets. It'll be done on a set of four sections at a time.

First up is a straight round 3 faceoff between Luke Humphries and Vincent van der Voort - Luke's been questioning his form on Twitter a bit, and being in the contenders spot tomorrow against the hottest player in darts right now might not help that. He's yet to get more than one win in a Pro Tour event, so van der Voort, who's started out decently statistically if not getting the greatest of results, might be a tough ask.

Another game straight into round 3 is Toni Alcinas against Nathan Aspinall. The Spaniard's won his board once this year but has been limited in results apart from that, which ought to spell trouble - the Asp's averaging a lot better and has reached two quarter finals already this year as he looks to build on his world championship exploits.

Next is the first of our Rileys qualifiers in Kevin Thoburn, who won through at Nottingham and is on debut, he's played a bit of the BDO circuit, mainly on the continent three years ago, but I don't know too much beyond that, he'll play Matt Dennant, who sneaked in on the Challenge Tour, he did alright at Q-School but never really threatened and didn't do brilliantly on the opening Challenge Tour weekend this year, but he is a previous tour card holder and has recently beaten Dolan and Baker to make an early Euro Tour event, so seems to be playing alright. The winner faces Justicia, who qualified last year with a quarter final in his first event with a tour card, but has struggled since then. Ricky Evans plays the winner of that, and should be too strong given he's hit some form in reaching a Pro Tour final just last weekend.

Finally we have former worlds finalist Kirk Shepherd facing new card holder Jon Worsley, both have a similar amount of prize money on the tour this year and have comparable scoring, so this could be tight. Bradley Brooks is the potential second round opponent, the youngster having made a Pro Tour quarter final a couple of weeks ago in a good run where he beat Adie and nearly beat Durrant. Dimitri van den Bergh is the final obstacle to make day two, the Belgian getting some cash on the floor finally with a run to the final in the event Durrant won, but busted both events last weekend and didn't play great, but it will be on the main stage so that should boost him.

Not often you get two Pro Tour winners in an early round here, but Mansell/Noppert is that, Danny clearly having the better form this year with back to back semis last weekend, while Mickey has an even record as he looks to bounce back from a horrible world championship performance.

James Richardson against one of the contenders Steve Lennon is our next game, neither has had a particularly good start to the year, but Lennon has at least won a board and didn't look completely outclassed in the Premier League event.

We then have a second round game between Scott Baker, who's had a blistering start to his PDC career to secure a bye to this stage, making a semi final in his first event and throwing a good number of very fast legs, against Ryan Harrington, who after finally getting a card at the start of 2018 after 846 attempts, has really struggled and only has the one win this year. Baker ought to come through but has one of the worst draws he could get in Ratajski, the twice Pro Tour winner performing very well statistically this year, scoring a lot better than his wins and losses record would suggest. Should be one to watch on board two.

Finally we have a four way battle to face Devon Petersen - Diogo Portela and Barrie Bates face off, the Brazilian having had just enough of a good start on the Challenge Tour to sneak into a couple of Pro Tour events, one where he won his board, while Bates was the last man into the Pro Tour at Q-School, the former finalist being mostly one win and done or straight out so far. The other first round game is a cracker - Jamie Hughes has lit things up on the averages, he just hasn't got good draws really, but we all saw him obliterate Q-School on day one. Callan Rydz is his opponent, he's been very close to getting onto the tour the last two years and hits a lot of maximums, the qualifier from Wolverhampton just needing to improve his finishing. Whoever gets through that faces South Africa's number one, who after shocking a lot of people at the worlds has been back to hit and miss on the floor, reaching two board finals but having four first round defeats as well, and could be in trouble whoever he faces.

An all-Deutscher Sprachraum first, with Gabriel Clemens facing Zoran Lerchbacher. Clemens was quietly one of the most solid players on the floor and had an alright showing at the worlds, and has started off with a Pro Tour final this season. Zoran had a nightmare 2018, but has picked things up a bit this season with a couple of board finals, winning one of them, making what might have been a bit of a one sided affair possibly closer.

Darren Beveridge was the lucky player to get the first round bye due to Cadby not being here, he got here through the Challenge Tour and was close to getting a card, but couldn't quite get over the line. His opponent is Luke Woodhouse, probably unknown to a lot of players but he's had some very nice performances, just not getting the money on the board having run into van Gerwen, de Zwaan and Ian White twice, but he's taken out Durrant, White and McGeeney on the floor so far and ought to take this one. Chris Dobey plays the victor and looked very good against Suljovic in the Premier League and is looking better on the floor this year with a semi final and two other board wins to date, he should be too strong but you never know.

The next section sees Ian McFarlane, the qualifier from Coventry Rileys, start up against Adrian Gray, who's been around forever (reaching the last 16 here back in 2003) but is now back on tour. Gray's not played great so far with just the one board final and then five opening losses, so Ian, a previous qualifier three years ago, may be live. The winner plays Simon Stevenson, who should be a step up in class although the Ally Pally qualifier hasn't had a fantastic start to the floor season either, and then next up is Mark Webster - the former Lakeside champion is in a battle to save his tour card you'd think after a bad 2018 where he missed the worlds, Webby's yet to have more than one win in an event this season.

First game is Richard North against Ronny Huybrechts. North is looking to push up towards the top 32 in the world but has started 2019 awfully with just one win so far this year on the Pro Tour, while his scoring doesn't look to have dropped a huge amount, he's not faced anyone you would say is unbeatable. The Belgian veteran didn't have a great 2018, but is averaging a little bit better this season, while he's not managed to get more than one win in the Pro Tour in a given event, it's at least an improvement from form that saw him miss the worlds.

Next we see Chris Lacey, a qualifier from the Sheffield event who made it last year but couldn't compete due to the snowpocalypse, face Marko Kantele, a new tour card holder who's not got off the ground yet in 2019 with just the one win over Pete Hudson for the Finn this far. Certainly vulnerable. Next up would be Robert Owen, the semi finalist from last year who's looking to put enough on the board this season to retain his card, one board final this year isn't the greatest set of performances. Ryan Joyce follows, the world championship quarter finalist looking solid again at the start of the year, same as in 2018, with four board finals to date, one of them won. He's shown he can turn floor form into stage performances, now he has to do it again.

Another four way battle from round 1 next - Wes Newton's on a second year off the tour, he crept into Lakeside by the back door but didn't play great and the former finalist hasn't got an easy tie against Cameron Menzies, who was extremely close to getting on the tour but just missed out on countback. He didn't have a great opening weekend on the Challenge Tour however, so maybe Wes has a chance. Martin Atkins (the Wigan variety) did great on the Challenge Tour in 2018 to get into a few Pro Tour events, but really was nowhere near in Q-School and only picked up a hundred quid on the opening Challenge Tour weekend, so his form will be in question. Jamie Bain's his opponent, the Scot picking his tour card back up but has five first round crash outs to start the season, so neither player seems in form. Menzies is probably the pick of these and Josh Payne is the eventual opponent, Josh not yet being able to pick up a board win in 2019 but hasn't dropped in form and has won more games than he's lost, so should be strong enough.

Lastly we have a seven way mess. Jason Cullen's an Irish player in from the Challenge Tour who got an early win there but didn't do much with the opportunities it gave and after missing out in Q-School, didn't play the opening Challenge Tour weekend so his form's a bit unknown. Reece Robinson was hyped about seven or eight years ago after having a good run here but dropped more or less off the radar completely before winning a card outright on day 3. Not a great start with just two wins but should beat Cullen you'd think. Jose de Sousa is looking alright having managed to get a tour card following the worlds where he appeared solid, and he should have enough to beat Brian Raman, a fairly young Belgian who won through the Liverpool Rileys qualifier, oddly enough. Dirk van Duijvenbode has a bye to round two and has got some good scoring power so far this season, if not the results, it's always about finishing and consistency for him - he'll play either Matt Clark or Niels Zonneveld, two players newly on the tour but at the other end of their careers, Niels being a bit slow to adapt to the senior tour with just one win so far (although he did miss a weekend), while Clark is scoring very well but has just been unlucky with draws I'd say, White, DvdB, RvB and Ratajski twice giving him a few early exits.

It's Mark v Mark first as Wilson plays Dudbridge, Wilson is in the second year of a card, didn't do much year one and is 0-6 so far this season, so Flash, with a much improved points per turn rating in 2019 and a board win already, ought to be too strong. The winner plays Willie O'Connor, who has had some surprising results but his game doesn't actually look that bad.

Next section sees two Rileys qualifiers - Andy Jenkins we know all about, while Shaun Fox qualified from Norwich and is a complete unknown, all we do know is he beat Paul Hogan in the final to get here, which can't be bad. Mario Robbe awaits in round two, the Dutchman's likely to lose his card after this year but isn't scoring horribly, had some good scalps in the Euro Tour qualifier (Barney, de Zwaan) so should be a good test. Speaking of de Zwaan, here he is, and while he's not started off 2019 in quite as good form as in 2018, should have enough to handle whoever he faces.

Robbie Collins plays Rowby John Rodriguez first up, Collins won through the London qualifier, and while he wasn't bad at Q-School, walked away from the first Challenge Tour weekend without even his bus fare home, so Rowby, who picked up a board win last event, ought to advance. He'd then play Andy Boulton who's playing some deceptively good darts, nearly 92 points per turn this season is not to be sniffed at and he ought to give Rowby a very close inspection. The final hurdle is Christian Kist, who's struggled with all sorts of problems for quite some time now, while the former Lakeside winner at his peak is a formidable opponent, we've not seen it for some time and you have to go back to May to see the last time he made a board final.

The final section has a lot of mid-level players. Wayne Jones made the worlds but blew it, and he faces the incredibly large Vincent Kamphuis in round two. Jones has had five of six first round defeats to date this year, but is scoring better than Kamphuis, who's earned twice as much. Could be a case of if Wayne has the confidence to take it. The other side sees a first round game between Scott Taylor, a former Pro Tour finalist who's made a Challenge Tour final this year and did the double on qualifying for Europe last weekend, so isn't playing badly, and he'll need to play well against Darius Labanauskas, the Lithuanian who's finally on the PDC circuit and has had an alright start, with a couple of board finals and a win on the Nordic/Baltic tour to date. The winner of that plays Kevin Burness, notable for winning the Tom Kirby and then whitewashing Nicholson at the worlds, but is 0-6 this year and didn't have a great 2018 on tour either, so will have a tough fight whoever he plays.

Second round action to start with Matt Edgar against Gary Eastwood, Edgar has a Pro Tour quarter final in the bank this year and should have the game to dispatch Eastwood, who's in the second year of a tour card but frankly has looked out of his depth and the two wins he's had so far this year was indicative of his form all last year. The winner plays Ryan Searle, who's completely turned his game around in the last six months and has begun 2019 like he finished 2018, with two quarter finals to date.

Two Rileys qualifiers up next, Lloyd Browning and Lee Harris winning at Worcester and Wolverhampton respectively. Browning seems an average domestic player, having a few occasional appearances in events in his native Wales and some qualification attempts for BDO majors, while Harris tried Q-School in 2018 then a weekend of Challenge Tour and UK Open qualifiers but didn't really get anywhere with them. Wouldn't fancy either against Harry Ward, the youngster who made the quarters of the world youth then won his tour card on day one and immediately made a quarter final. Jan Dekker would face him, Dekker being on a bit of a losing streak after an opening Pro Tour weekend which can only really be described as saving par, could be a decent chance for Ward to make the last 64 for a second straight year.

Terry Temple is 0-6 this season and did next to nothing all last year, hence why he's in round one despite having a whole year of tour card money that ought to have got him to round two. This ought to be a chance for Simon Preston, here from the Challenge Tour where he got a win last year, but he only won fifty quid the opening weekend and had a weak Q-School, so this might be one to miss. Arron Monk should be too good for either, only having the two opening round defeats so far this season and scoring fairly solidly. Former champion Robert Thornton awaits, he's not had a bad start to the season but nothing like the form we know he can produce, and nothing like the form that'd see him climb back towards the top 32, Arron ought to be slight favourite.

Then we have a mess. Killington has the bye, but is on a big losing streak. He'll face either Ted Evetts, who reclaimed his card and has been looking fairly competent, or Mike van Duivenbode, another player off the Dutch production line who's yet to get a Pro Tour win. An international feel next with Dennis Nilsson, the Swede with a win on the Challenge Tour last year to get here and a semi at the same level this year, against Madars Razma, the Latvian number one who didn't pick up form quite quick enough last year to save his card, missed the worlds by a whisker, but reclaimed the card straight away and is maintaining good form. Then it's an English matchup - Dave Pallett's a semi finalist from last year who won his board last time out, against Mark McGeeney, the former BDO number 1 and Lakeside finalist who's making a non-Grand Slam PDC TV debut on the main stage. Q-School was made to look easy by the Gladiator but outside of one board win it's been a slow start on the floor.

Four way battle from round 1 to start. Geert Nentjes is a young Dutchman who made it through the PDC qualifiers last year but didn't quite cash, he's started with one board final already and a nine darter to boot. Should be a win against David Evans, who cashed last year after good qualification and is here through the Challenge Tour, but failed to win a card and has had a slow start on the secondary circuit. Jarred Cole's an exciting prospect who like Evans is here through the Challenge Tour, but couldn't quite force his way onto the tour after good days 1-3 and will look to build experience on the secondary and youth tiers. Michael Barnard won the Challenge Tour but has looked awful so far this season with six straight defeats. Whoever comes through that will play Justin Pipe, who had a bad 2018 to miss the worlds for the first time in a long time, the fight to save his card starts here and he's only managed the one win this season.

Joe Murnan plays Mark Frost in round 1, Murnan reclaiming his card after losing it in 2018, the former Pro Tour winner has had a mediocre start to the season and the numbers reflect it. Frost, one of the last men in here from the Challenge Tour, was last seen on our screens looking tired and emotional against Gary Anderson in the worlds and Murnan should have enough. Ryan Meikle is next up, the 22 year old made the last 32 in 2018 and is a bit of a step up for either first round opponent. Alan Tabern's the round three player, and should have the quality to defeat any of these, already having four grand in the bank from the Pro Tour and statistically looking a lot stronger than the rest.

The next section sees Pete Hudson against John Goldie in round two - Hudson's been around for a while and lost in round two of each of the last two Pro Tour events after four straight losses, while Goldie has made one board final and that's it. Goldie was playing very well this time last year to qualify but couldn't beat the weather, since then, not so much. It's then one from four for who the winner will face - Lynn's the big name having previously made the quarters, Rasztovits is here from the Challenge Tour, the Austrian not being that far off winning a card, Conan Whitehead did win a card, the Lakeside quarter finalist having cashed here six years ago as a pub qualifier, while Burgoine is a pub qualifier for the fourth time but has yet to make the money, being denied by Robert Owen last year.

The last section's a bit simpler - Adam Huckvale is in from the Challenge Tour but hasn't shown the quality to show he can compete on the Pro Tour level in the shots he had, he'll play Mark Barilli, who won through in Greenock and showed a bit of form to reach the Scottish Open semis a couple of weeks ago. Tony Newell is the next challenge, he's held a tour card for six years now but has six defeats to start the season so could easily be beatable, while Brendan Dolan should be pretty happy with this draw, the former major finalist is starting to move back up the rankings and should see this as a chance to get in the hat with the big boys.

All overseas to start. Marijanovic against van Baelen ought to be alright, nobody has spectacular numbers but it's fairly closely matched, although van Baelen has upped his game in 2019 it seems. The winner faces Martin Schindler, who we have to hope can reach the venue in easier circumstances this year, the young German talent is playing maybe a bit below his best so far in 2019 so might possibly be vulnerable.

Next is a four pack to face Keegan Brown - Nathan Derry regained his card back on the last day after a two year absence, and while he's done OK in terms of results, isn't scoring too brilliantly. Lee Budgen is here from the Challenge Tour, still young enough for the world youth, but isn't doing anything at the senior levels to make us think he should trouble Derry. Eddie Dootson made the last sixteen four years ago, but after winning a card on the other half of the draw to Cadby on day one last year, has had a horrific 2018, but is playing a little bit better so far this season and has made a couple of board finals. This leaves Vincent van der Meer, playing havoc with my autocomplete on my spreadsheets, he nicked a card late but has yet to win more than one game so far. Keegan should have more than enough, his numbers are far superior and he likely has the experience edge on all of these despite his relatively young age.

The penultimate section sees Tytus Kanik, a Pole who won a card from more or less nowhere in 2018, face off against Carl Wilkinson or Yordi Meeuwisse. Wilkinson's a new card holder and has had a steady start to his PDC career, he was one game off the money here last year, and statistically he matches up closely against Meeuwisse, who reclaimed his card and similarly has had a good start, and having made the worlds might have the major event advantage. Kanik has the bye but it's hard to separate any of these. The other half might be easier to call - Ross Smith is playing very good darts right now, just being a bit unlucky with draws, and ought to be too classy for Canadian Dawson Murschell, who has had a nightmare start to 2019 with no wins whatsoever, most of them being heavy defeats.

Our final round 4 player will come from one of these four - John Davey and Cody Harris are both here from the Challenge Tour rankings, Harris being somewhat of a surprising name to not get a tour card, but the New Zealander's quality isn't in question and I can't see the Welshman threatening him, he got a Challenge Tour win early in 2018 but lost more or less every game at the Pro Tour level. Adam Hunt is next in round two, he got to the worlds and will be looking to build on that cash this season, it ought to be a fairly tight matchup if he does face Harris. Ron Meulenkamp follows in round three, the Dutchman slowly becoming more hit than miss, and when he is on form he can be unplayable, he's won a board this year so while it won't be one sided, he ought to have the edge against any potential opponent.

And that's your lot. Bets to follow tomorrow.

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