‘The FA Cup of Darts’ returns this week, as the 2018 Coral UK Open Finals get underway at Butlins Minehead on Friday afternoon. 96 professional qualifiers are joined by 32 Rileys Amateur qualifiers in this unique open-draw event, and Josh’s Dartistry highlights four men who could be potential outsiders this weekend!
James Wade- 66/1
James Wade may be a two-time UK Open winner, but ‘The Machine’ heads to Minehead this weekend as a 66/1 outsider with tournament sponsor Coral. It’s been a difficult twelve months for Wade, who slipped outside the world’s top ten for the first time in over a decade, which subsequently cost him his Premier League spot.
However, when Wade last missed out on the Premier League in 2014, he responded by reaching the World Grand Prix Final and winning the Unibet Masters, and the early signs in 2018 suggest that his disappointment could once again have a similarly galvanising effect on his darting fortunes.
The eight-time major winner finished 19th on the final UK Open Order of Merit which means he’ll enter the tournament in the third-round stage on Friday evening, whilst he also reached his first ranking final for twelve months in Players Championship One a fortnight ago.
‘The Machine’ also managed to qualify for both of the opening two European Tour events of the year in Barnsley – notching up two averages in excess of 110 across the weekend, illustrating just how well he’s playing. Wade is a proven winner and if he can maintain his strong start to the year, he will be one to fear!
Kim Huybrechts- 100/1
2017 was an extremely difficult year for Kim Huybrechts. His Premier League campaign was derailed due to family reasons and he struggled to arrest the slump, which culminated in a first-round exit at the World Championship at the hands of James Richardson.
Nevertheless, Huybrechts’ ability is not in question and ‘The Hurricane’ has made an impressive start to the new season, with a series of impressive displays on the PDC Pro Tour. His best showing in TV majors last year came in this event, when he lost out 10-9 to Alan Norris in a gripping quarter-final clash.
Huybrechts will not enter the tournament until round-three after finishing ninth on the UK Open Order of Merit, and the Belgian is the only player to have made his board final in all ten ranking events so far in 2018. That underlines his consistency, which should stand him in good stead for the weekend ahead.
Ian White- 100/1
Ian White has been one of the most reliable campaigners on the PDC circuit in the last five to six years, and it’s astonishing to think he’s yet to reach a major televised semi-final. Having said that, he came extremely close twelve months ago – losing 10-9 to eventual finalist Gerwyn Price in the last eight.
‘The Diamond’ is now remarkably the highest ranked player in Stoke-on-Trent, following Phil Taylor’s retirement and Adrian Lewis slipping to 20th on the PDC Order of Merit, and White has enjoyed a strong start to the season himself.
White landed a nine-darter en route to reaching the semi-finals of UK Open qualifier two, whilst he also recorded runs to the semi-finals and quarter-finals of the opening two Players Championship events a fortnight ago. He’s got the form and he’s got the experience; can White get it right in Minehead?
Krzysztof Ratajski- 100/1
Krzysztof Ratajski really came to prominence on the PDC circuit last year due to his participation on the European Tour. ‘The Polish Eagle’ only failed to qualify for one of the twelve events, which saw him feature at both the European Championship and the PDC World Championship.
However, Ratajski’s most notable achievement came on the other side of the darting divide, when he won the BDO World Masters in September, defeating the likes of Richard Veenstra, Cameron Menzies, Glen Durrant and finally Mark McGeeney to lift the title.
Ratajski opted not to compete in the BDO World Championship and instead received a wildcard for Ally Pally. Despite this, he was beaten in the opening-round by James Wilson, before surprisingly failing to secure a PDC Tour Card at European Qualifying School. Nevertheless, he underlined his credentials in the UK Open qualifiers.
He defeated Raymond van Barneveld in each of the opening two events, before winning the sixth and final event where he defeated Ian White, Corey Cadby, Rob Cross and Daryl Gurney to triumph and finish 3rd on the overall Order of Merit. He consistently averages around the 95-99 mark and is a clinical finisher. He could be a real darkhorse.
Photo Credits: Lawrence Lustig/PDC