Snakebite the right man to gain from Van Gerwen's pain
Two-time finalist can go one better
ITV4, 11.45am Friday
Peter Wright, winner of more titles in 2017 than even the mighty Michael van Gerwen, could be just the man to continue his purple streak by landing the first big one of the year, the Coral UK Open in Minehead.
Beaten finalist in each of the last two years, Snakebite can make it third time lucky in the event known as the FA Cup of darts.
The build-up to the first major of the year has been dominated by talk of Michael van Gerwen’s back injury, a problem that forced the Dutchman to miss last night’s round of Betway Premier League action in Exeter.
The world number one, who had been the 4-6 favourite to defend his UK Open crown before betting was suspended on the strength of his injury bulletin, was going to decide last night whether or not to fly into the Butlins resort for the three-day arrers extravaganza.
Wright, like all the other players, will be privately chuffed to bits that Van Gerwen has an injury, but with or without the Green Machine this unique major will still take all the winning.
And interestingly, despite it having the air of a lottery about it – world rankings have no bearing on the seedings and there are free draws from the third round onwards – only the very best players have ever won the title. And Wright is definitely among the very best.
The Scot won three of last month’s six qualifiers so heads the money list for this event. That means that he and the 31 other best qualifiers don’t enter the fray until round three this evening.
Before that, the rest of the field have 11-leg shootouts in rounds one and two to deal with and there are some big names going through that ordeal, including former champion Robert Thornton and
ex-world champs Stephen Bunting and Mark Webster.
Wright and compatriot Gary Anderson, numbers three and two in the world, are going to have their supporters and both are playing supremely well.
But while the winner of this event tends to come from the darting elite, we have had some big-priced finalists, inevitably really with the open draws.
The likes of Mark Walsh, Barrie Bates and Gary Mawson have all landed each-way gambles at three-figure odds and last year also saw one of the regional qualifiers, Barry Lynn, make it all the way to the last eight. It’s that sort of competition.
My shortlist is going to include Jelle Klaasen and Alan Norris.
Klaasen reached the semis last year, the start of a really impressive 2016. The former Lakeside champion’s prize for a solid year was a place in the Premier League and despite a tricky start in terms of points scored, he is throwing well having changed his darts in January.
Norris is a floor monster and could breeze into the latter stages of this event. Like Klaasen, he has reached the final in Frimley Green so clearly can produce in front of the cameras and the reigning German darts champion is already a winner in 2017, having triumphed in a Players Championship heat last weekend.
2pts 6-1 Betfair, Paddy Power
1pt each-way 40-1 Betfair
1pt each-way 100-1 Betfair
Experienced Hogan can stifle youngster
Remember the name we were told: this kid is going places.
So just what has happened to Keegan Brown, the young Isle of Wight arrowsmith who looked to be the future of the game when he burst onto the scene at the 2014 Grand Slam?
Not a lot really. The likeable 24-year-old is still throwing good darts, and is practising hard, but has just yet to recapture those dizzy heights of a couple of years ago.
He’d love a good run in Minehead, though it may not happen because he’s been drawn against Hampshire veteran Paul Hogan, the only man who ever looked like beating Glen Durrant at the BDO World Championship. Hogan is a repeat qualifier for the Coral UK Open and has twice reached the last 32.
Youngster Ryan Meikle is another player being tipped for big things and a Development Tour win last month will have given the Suffolk starlet a big lift. Victory over Joe Cullen at the weekend was also another positive for the 20-year-old.
It means he’ll be confident going into his first-round showdown with Vincent Kamphuis and he can land the odds.
1pt Evs general
1pt 6-5 Betfair