Ones to Watch 2012 - The UK Open - A Review
Just Prior to the UK Open we at Let’s Play Knockout Darts took the risky step of going public with our hints and tips. Below is the original article with a look at how those favored fared! The selections were of the less obvious names to provide some extra colour and information for you, the darts fan.
So as we head for the first PDC major of the year lets look at those who may be Ones to Watch for 4 days from this Thursday. Again we shall look at a number of categories and see who stands out before offering a view on ultimate success.
The Top 16 nearly always provides the majority of the latter stage players, despite the Opens tendency to throw up surprises. Last year Wes Newton made his first major final. The semi finals were made up of three players from the Top 10 of the time Wes, James Wade & Mark Webster with the wily and consistent Denis Ovens making up the 4th place. Relatively predictably the highest ranked player (Wade) won the event. Despite some chopping and changing the top 10 look much the same, with the exception of Andy Hamilton’s superb rise over the last 10 months. The Hammer has not done as well in the Open as in most other major events and could be due here, or has The Premier League taken a toll? A resurgent Barney has been looking better and better and seems to us to be a bit of a man on a mission, could the free draw arrangement favor the Dutchman? Adrian Lewis has also under performed in Bolton and the recent development of Ade playing and pulling out the stops on the bigger days could well reoccur. A case can of course be made for all the top 16 elite, including its newest member Justin Pipe, winning or going close but as ever LPKOD are not going for the easy option. From the Elite section Raymond Van Barneveld is our selection.
Well its always dangerous tipping Barney, but the big man did himself proud, even in defeat there were signs of less negative vibes and a very determined approach. Good work and as he reached the Qtrs we cannot complain.
The New Breed
Those from outside the Top 16 who have or, we believe, are about to make a big impact on the game. The Open can provide a great platform for the in form, prepared and focused talented newcomer. Last year threw up three of these names in the last 16, Mark Hylton, Peter Wright and Dave Chisnal. Although Dave was only a newcomer in PDC & Open terms his achievement on reaching the Qtrs on his first attempt was a sign of things to come. Peter Wright kicked off his breakthrough season with a last 16 place bowing out to “Mile High” Hylton.
It is looking very likely that this position could be exactly replicated in 2012, Ted Hankey or Dean Winstanly could match Chizzy’s effort, Ian “Diamond” White is ranked very similarly to Mark Hylton 2011 position and in great form and Mark himself is in almost exactly the same position as Peter Wright was twelve months ago. In addition James Richardson has shown himself to enjoy the big stage and rise to the occasion in his carbon copy career. Kim Huybrechts fits this mold perfectly and has shown already that he is relaxed in such environments. Players Championship Semi Finalist Scott Rand and stablemate Nigel Heydon also provide additional grist to this mill. Nigel reached the last 16 a couple of years ago and Scott will be determined to continue his rapid rise. From the new breed we are looking for last 16 places and maybe at least one Quarter Final. Therefor we shall choose three in the persons of Ian White, Dean Winstanley and “Ruthless” James Richardson.
It has to be said that our selection here did not live up to the billing, Ian was narrowly beaten in the l64 by Richie Burnett, James missed out in a tough match against an old friend, never easy! Dean was unfortunate to meet a very in form Bull in the last 32 but that’s no disgrace and yet more experience for the PDC newcomer.
The Open seems to be a happy hunting ground for younger player making a breakthrough, over the last few years Reece Robinson has provided many superb performances in both victory and defeat showing great promise for the future. Joe Cullen and William O Conner also featured well here in the past and Micheal Smith announced his arrival to anyone who had not yet noticed, against Barney last year. This year may be the year that another crop of young hopefuls make there presence felt. Adam Smith Neale is beginning to kick into gear and play as we now he can. Finally qualifying for a TV major at the age of 17. Youth World Champ James Hubbard is in tremendous form and performing as well on the Pro Tour as he is on the Youth Tour! Many other youngsters have come through this year and could be surprise packages for pro’s and other alike. Despite some tough early round draws we shall back Jamie Lewis & James Hubbard to carry the torch for the next generation this year. If Adam Smith Neale negotiates a tough opening game against Staffordshire’s Rob Hawker then he too will be a serious threat.
Here we think the young guns did very well, James Hubbard was also halted by Terry Jenkins despite putting up a valiant showing. Jamie Lewis did superbly in many ways, defeating Steve Farmer, who is a major semi finalist and pro tour winner, ranked in the top 40 and then following through with a strong win over Mark Stephenson. Adam Smith Neale won his local battle vs Rob Hawker and also continued to last 96 where Dean Stewart put paid to his challenge. Overall LPKOD predictions gave good value for watchers here, yet no real highlights.
Qualifiers (Speedy or Rileys)
This unique feature of the Open allows darters from other codes, backgrounds or strictly amateurs to have a go at the big boys and test themselves in PDC conditions against the very best, with the open draw it is also a level playing field. Last year saw some superb runs from qualifiers Andy Bolton & John Bowles both reached the last 16 stage whilst Andy Gilding defeated three PDC pros in a row including world GP finalist Brendon Dolan and World finalist Andy Hamilton, before running out of steam in the last 32. Joe Murnan and Matt Edgar also reached last 32 after qualifying as an associate member. From this years band of qualifiers Glenn Durrant or Steven Bunting could go a long way, trouble is they have each other 1st round and then a possible meeting with James Wade. John Jukes is a great player and in superb form currently, Steve Beaton is a tough stage opponent though as Scott Rand discovered last year. If John could get through he has a chance to make some serious headway. There are many other quality player who have found a way back to pro darts this year thanks to Riley’s and Speedy, Afore mention Rob Hawker, Dave Solly and Davy Dodds are all capable of causing shocks and pushing anyone. However I shall plump for a couple of players that I have watched on and off for a while Andy Roberts and Jamie Hughes could again shake things up and cause real problems. Some may have forgotten Andy but not here at LPKOD, he is a class act , a good guy and has been in superb form for almost 12 months! Jamie Hughes is a tip for the top in our opinion lets not pile too much on him too soon but definitely One to Watch!
Although our selected pair did not do any damage Jamie Hughes should still go on to big things he was only narrowly pipped by a very determined Steve Hine 4-3. John Jukes who we gave a mention too also caused the shock of night 1 defeating Steve Beaton 4-2.
A few current tour card holders are making their debuts or their professional debuts at least. Andrew Gilding returns as a PDC Tour card holder after his titantic efforts in 2011. Johnny Haines deserves very special mention here, PDC Newcomer he maybe but UK Open newcomer he certainly is not! He qualified for 4 UK Open in a row, via the amateur routes between 2006 & 2009. On every occasion he won at least one match & reached the last 64 on his last appearance. In addition he has competed on the Lakeside stage so his opponent Mark Webster will not have things all on his side even in this early round. Andy Brown is also making a professional debut here and his 2012 form suggests a tough time for Peter Wright in round two. John Bowles returns also, this time as prey instead of hunter, for the last 2 years John has proven a very tough opponent in his home area but this time he appears as PDC Pro
His will be considered a scalp by all those who are drawn against him early on and it’s a whole new set of things to deal with. Stuart Kellet may be the one use the Open as a springboard this year, a solid start to the PDC tour has seen him improving almost every week, but Stuart made his name as a TV Player and it will be interesting to see if this continues. Slugger Brown & Andy Gilding for us here, differing styles and debut type but both could really upset the apple cart.
Despite the superb effort of Johnny Haines, non of our hopefuls from here really lived up to the billing. Andy Gilding failed to replicate last years amateur run and Slugger Brown bumped into a resurgent Peter Wright.
It pays not to right people off in darts, the character and talent of some to come back from personal trauma or just a dreadful run can be amazing. Who would have picked Richie Burnett as a Semi Finalist in the GP last year? So again don’t write of The Prince of Wales, Smiffy aka Dennis Smith is again threatening ro recapture the form that made him world no.5 and a major semi finalist. This Year sees Robert Thornton returning from illness and slipping out of the worlds top 32, can the Thorn prove a threat again? Alex Roy has rediscovered appetite and form and has reached the later stages before, Jelle Klassen, Dennis Priestly and The Adonis himself, Mr Beaton are all former world champs who could re light the fire and roll back the clock, signs of good form from all recently. Here we shall select both Rob Thornton and Dennis Priestly, both more than capable and two of the most generous people on tour.
Well here we had real success, both of our picks lived up to and surpassed our expectation here! A superb event win from The Thorn and a personal best equaling showing for Dennis! Smiffy also reached the last 32 and so struck another blow for those who have been there and done it!
Every year sees a shock player in the last 8 or better and another pull off a huge scalp. Over the years Gary Mawson and Shayne Burgess have reached the finals from lowly starting points, Tony Ayes superb run to the semi including a superb semi final win over James Wade and Steve Hine & Chris Thompson’s runs to the Qtrs, provide more evidence that the great leveler is the format and the draw. A sneaky feeling here gives us The Highlander or Hendo to his friends, not had the best start to his second year but still qualified in the 2nd group and we have great faith in the class act that rocks all over the oche!
No joy here for Hendo , a decent 1st game win over the in form Joey Palfreyman but ousted in a deciding leg by Colin “Ozzy” Osbourne. That’s the thing about wildcard selections you never know!
So there you have it ones to watch for 2012 – The UK Open. Just for the hell of it here’s our forcast of how our choices will fair. Optimistic yes, but perfectly possible! As ever we do not go for the obvious but still put it out for you to follow and enjoy.
Winner – Barny - Qtrs
Runner Up – Adrian Lewis – l32
Semi – Rob Thornton - Winner
Qtrs – Ian White & Dean Winstanley – L64 & L32
Last 16 – Hendo, Gilding & James Richardson – Not reaching L64
Last 32 – Dennis Priestly, James Hubbard, Slugger Brown, Andy Roberts – L16, L64 and not reaching l64
WildCard – “Mile High” Hylton – could still fly on after his 2011 Qtrs! – L32
Others to perform well and cause shocks aplenty. Definitely.
Hope you enjoyed, both our successes and errors along the way, I know we did especially on the Thursday and Friday evenings. Trying to keep an eye on them all was a nightmare!