It is the first important tournament since the Darts World Championship, which ended on January 3rd, and in any case the largest event on the entire professional tour in terms of the number of participants: The UK Open will be played at Minehead’s Butlins Resort from March 3rd to 5th. 160 players will start on Friday from 12 noon (live on Sport1 and DAZN).
But it’s not just the large starting field that gives the event its very special character. With its processes and mode, it is probably the most anarchistic and, in the best sense, most chaotic tournament on the annual calendar. The game will be played on eight boards at the same time, all of which will be streamed for the first time this year.
Who? Against who? On which board? The players also sometimes find it difficult to keep track of things, especially since from the fourth round a new pot is drawn live on stage. The Brits, who are actually friends of seeding lists, especially in darts, do not call the UK Open the “FA Cup of Darts” by accident – a cup competition in which everyone can meet everyone else.
The tournament is also extremely popular with the fans due to the extent and the close timing of the matches and has regularly produced surprising winners in recent years. Unforgettable was the 2018 final when Australian underdog Corey Cadby made it to the final against Gary Anderson. In 2019 Nathan Aspinall won his first major title in Minehead and in 2021 James Wade won the UK Open for a third time, ten years after his last triumph. “The Machine” is making its 21st appearance this weekend and, like Steve Beaton, has been present at all of the tournament’s events.
Last year, Dutchman Danny Noppert, an outsider, also prevailed and, in addition to his first major title, secured the £100,000 prize money, which was increased to £110,000 this year. The UK Open was once again significantly upgraded by the organizing Professional Darts Corporation (PDC): 600,000 pounds instead of the previous 450,000 pounds will be paid out, an increase of a whopping 33 percent.
The Germans will also benefit from this this year. Seven qualified for the spectacle. In addition to the six Tourcard holders Gabriel Clemens, Martin Schindler, Florian Hempel, Ricardo Pietreczko, Pascal Rupprecht and Daniel Klose, Lukas Little also made it through the Challenge Tour as a substitute. The Lower Franconian, last weekend with a remarkable 6:1 win over Ryan Meikle at the Baltic Sea Open in Kiel, benefits from the cancellation of the Englishman David Pallett.
With the exception of Hempel, who will start in the third round due to his world ranking position 51, all Germans have been in good form recently, so that a surprise like that at the World Cup, when Clemens sensationally advanced to the semi-finals, seems quite possible.
Little, like the two well-started Tour newcomers Rupprecht and Klose, will intervene in the first lap and has caught a difficult fate with Dutchman Jeffrey de Zwaan. Klose has to deal with Jacques Labre from France, Rupprecht meets the Welshman Nick Kenny.
In the first round the numbers 97 to 128 of the Order of Merit, the top 8 of the Challenge Tour and Development Tour as well as 16 regionally determined amateur qualifiers face each other. The 32 winners will play world nos. 65-96 in round two before the winners of those 32 duels are drawn against no. The top 32, including two Germans with Clemens and Schindler, are only challenged from the fourth round. In 2020 both had reached the round of 16. A similar result should also be the goal this time, although at the UK Open, in addition to the existing strength of form, luck will also be required.