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UK Open preview: Wide open draw gives outsiders hope

Stars from all around the world are gathering at Butlin's in Minehead for the 21st running of the UK Open, which starts on Friday.

Over 150 players, ranging from the best in the world to amateur qualifiers, will be toeing the oche over the coming three days with a prize cheque of £110,000 awaiting the winner.

Three-time champion Michael van Gerwen, one of eight former winners in the field, is 11/2, while his fellow Dutchman, 28/1 chance Danny Noppert, defends his title.

WhatUK Open
WhereButlin's, Minehead
WhenFriday March 3rd - Sunday March 5th
How to watchbet365 Sports Live Streaming & ITV4
OddsMichael van Gerwen 11/2, Gerwyn Price 7/1, Michael Smith 15/2, Peter Wright 12/1, Jonny Clayton 12/1

Expect big-priced dangers in FA Cup of Darts

The UK Open is unique in the PDC calendar as the only major with a free draw from round four - the last 64 - onwards, hence its nickname, the FA Cup of Darts.

The absence of any seedings, the open draw and the fact that many of the games are played away from the main stage where the TV coverage is, helps to explain why there are so many shocks and so many big-priced finalists.

Noppert went in at 80/1 last year, but there have also been a string of three-figure finalists including Shane Burgess, Vincent van der Voort and Gary Mawson. Even Gerwyn Price was a 150/1 shot when he reached the final in 2017.

The top 32 players in the world enter the competition on Friday evening in round four with matches over a best-of-19 legs.

Humphries hopeful in wide-open field

The last six stagings of the UK Open have produced six different winners and 11 different finalists, with Price the only man to have appeared in two finals since 2017 - and he lost both. The Iceman is a 7/1 shot this time.

This is such a tough competition to win with players needing not only to be playing well, but also benefiting from a decent draw and punters will have their own ideas of an outright pick.

Van Gerwen heads the betting at 11/2 and you would struggle to rule out anyone who is 100/1 or shorter even though many will be drawn to the Green Machine and the rest of the Premier League elite eight, who will have journeyed up from Exeter where Week 5 of that event was staged on Thursday.

Luke Humphries, unlucky not to be in the Premier League and a former finalist, will have his backers at 20/1, so too Dave Chisnall at 25/1 after winning in Kiel in the Baltic Sea Open last Sunday.

And many eyes will be trained on Josh Rock, the young Northern Ireland ace who caused a stir at the Grand Slam and World Championship and goes to post as a 22/1 chance.

Rock, because he is ranked between 33 and 64 on the PDC's Order of Merit, makes his entrance on Friday afternoon in round three alongside the likes of Adrian Lewis, Steve Beaton and Simon Whitlock.

Dirk van Duijvenbode (20/1), Ryan Searle (40/1) and even Keegan Brown - available at 200/1 - all showed good form last weekend so have to feel positive if the draw works in their favour.

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Can Klaasen show his class in opener?

The first three rounds on Friday are all best-of-11-leg affairs, with round one featuring the bottom-ranked players on the PDC's Order of Merit plus a number of throwers off the Development Tour, the Challenge Tour and 16 triers who got through the bedlam of qualification at sports bars up and down the country over the past few weeks.

A couple of former Lakeside champions - Jelle Klaasen and Christian Kist - come into the event in round one, with Klaasen 4/6 to beat Josh Payne and Kist a 13/8 outsider against compatriot Geert Nentjes.

Players ranked 65-96 on the PDC's list are then introduced in round two to square up to round one's survivors, before the players ranked 33-64 arrive for round three - and already the third round has thrown up some cracking ties.

Former champion Lewis is 4/11 to beat Joe Murnan and Willie O'Connor is 1/3 against Devon Petersen.

Rock comes in against Luke Woodhouse and gets a 2/7 quote, while there's a fascinating battle between Florian Hempel and Jamie Hughes, with the German an attractive 7/4 shot.

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