By Paul Woodage 05/03/2022
For Darts World 578 we carried a part preview part fond tribute to the UK Open and its return to normality after disrupted years!
If there was ever a PDC television major that threw the cat amongst the pigeons, then the UK Open unequivocally fits that bill.
Dubbed as ‘The FA Cup of Darts’, the tournament is an open draw format that can often toss up some tasty tungsten ties. It means titans can collide early on – and often do.
Back to a little history on this unique event. Established in 2003, the very first UK Open was staged in Bolton. No prizes for guessing who won that inaugural tournament – here’s a clue – his initials are PDT.
On that occasion, the champ pocketed £30,000. Phil Taylor (as if you hadn’t guessed) overcame all before him to defeat Shayne Burgess – who, at this point, must have been sick of meeting The Power in PDC finals.
Generously, the tournament allows any budding amateur player to gain entry via regional qualifying events. Most notably, and before his rise to fame, Rob Cross being one.
It was in 2016 that the former World Champion successfully negotiated a way through a Rileys qualifier to earn a spot in Minehead.
It took a dynamic Michael van Gerwen to halt the surge of the Voltage, hitting a 9-darter for good measure too in their last 32 clash. But for Cross, it set the ball rolling – one that has certainly picked up plenty of speed since.
Up until now, only three nations can boast players to have claimed the trophy – England, Scotland and Holland.
Fairly sure Wales are aware of that statistic and two players, in particular, will be keen to rectify it. Not surprisingly though, they have come close. Current World number one, Gerwyn Price has twice been runner-up – and the lovable Barrie Bates was denied in 2006 final.
English arrow-smiths, Phil Taylor (5), James Wade (3), Adrian Lewis and the previously mentioned Nathan Aspinall, have all tasted UK Open success.
For the Dutch, Roland Scholten, Raymond van Barneveld (2) and Michael van Gerwen (3) have each picked up the trophy.
And completing the list, representing Scotland, the talented tartan trio of Robert Thornton, Peter Wright and Gary Anderson have all pocketed one win each.
Only three non-European players have come close to glory. Canada’s John Part, Gary Mawson from the USA and Aussie Corey Cadby. All reaching the final but ultimately denied.
Nowadays, the UK Open has a permanent residency at Butlins in Minehead. Since 2014, the event was travelled south from Bolton to the popular Somerset town where fans travel in their droves for a fun-packed weekend on the coast.
Defending the trophy this year is perennial PDC major title winner, James Wade. Last March, the Machine claimed the crown for the third time in his illustrious career, overcoming Luke Humphries behind closed doors in Milton Keynes.
With many restrictions and complications have gone many will fancy their chances at 2022’s first ranking major. Will we again see a lower-ranked winner? Could a player such as Ryan Searle, Joe Cullen or Krzysztof Ratajski replicate Aspinall’s career turbocharge or might another fairytale comeback, such as Rob Thornton’s 2012 triumph, be on the cards?
This year, it’s thankfully back to normality. Expect a huge party atmosphere as Butlins flings its doors wide open and, after a twelve-month absence, welcomes the UK Open home.
Lead image: PDC