PartyPoker.net PDC US Open Preview
PHIL TAYLOR sets out to claim back-to-back PartyPoker.net PDC US Open titles on Friday in the next part of his bid to reclaim the world number one spot from Raymond van Barneveld.
Taylorwas overtaken at the head of the PDC Order of Merit by Dutchman van Barneveld in January, following his disappointing end to 2007.
However, a run of five successive PDC Pro Tour wins during the past two months has seen Taylor close the gap on van Barneveld at the head of the rankings.
And victory in the £125,000 PDC US Open at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut this weekend would see Taylor - who also finished top of the Whyte & Mackay Premier League Darts table following 14 weekly rounds - move even closer to his aim of being back on top of the world this summer.
"Maybe it^s done me some good not being top, but it^s a massive goal of mine to win back the world number one spot," said Taylor.
"I was very disappointed with how things went for me last year, but I^ve made some changes this year with my darts and my lifestyle and it^s paying off.
"I^ve been in form in the Premier League and I want to continue that now into the summer.
"The US Open is the first major tournament of the year and I can make a statement there."
Taylor won last year^s inaugural PDC US Open in impressive fashion, dropping just two sets in seeing off Mervyn King John Part and van Barneveld from the last eight onwards.
"I won the event last year and I love the Mohegan Sun," added Taylor. "It’s a special venue; when you first see this massive casino in the middle of a forest it^s fantastic, and you think of all the names of people who^ve performed there, like Rod Stewart.
"It^s become a great venue for me too, winning the World Series of Darts in 2006 and then winning the US Open last year, especially beating Raymond in the final, which was something special."
Van Barneveld also took glory in America last year, winning the Las Vegas Desert Classic in July, and is hoping to go one better than his Mohegan Sun debut this weekend.
"I like America - it gives me a relaxed feeling," said van Barneveld. "I am relaxed and enjoy myself, there are no telephones or computers and I can enjoy every day - and maybe that^s the key because in two years I^ve made three finals.
"In last year^s US Open I played well but in the final Phil was great and beat me 4-1. I was happy to make the final but if you^re in the final you want to win it, so hopefully this year I will!"
The tournament will feature 257 players from as far afield as Japan vying for the £12,500 first prize, although world number three James Wade was forced to withdraw from the event on Thursday after being unable to travel to the USA through illness.
Two of the top young talents in darts will clash in the tournament^s first round, when Dutch wonderkid Michael van Gerwen takes on Kevin McDine, a semi-finalist in last year^s PartyBets.com Grand Slam of Darts.
Van Gerwen^s compatriot Vincent van der Voort, the 2007 UK Open runner-up, takes on leading American John Kuczynski in another high profile round one meeting.
Friday^s play will see the field whittled down to the last 16 players, with the eight games in that round being played on stage in the Mohegan Sun^s Cabaret Theatre on Saturday.
Sunday will see the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final of the tournament take place.
The first North American Darts Championship will run alongside the PDC US Open on Friday and Saturday, offering players from the USA and Canada the chance to compete for a $50,000 prize fund.
Current Ladbrokes.com PDC World Champion John Part enters that event as the favourite as well as being the number four seed in the PDC US Open, and is hoping for double glory in Connecticut.
"I^m World Champion and have a lot of experience under my belt, plus 14 weeks of playing in the Premier League does a lot to build up your capabilities to play," said a confident Part.
"I^m thriving on playing every week and to take that into events like the PDC US Open or North American Darts Championship, I do have a tremendous advantage.
"I have to remember, though, it^s a short enough format and I know a lot of the American and Canadian guys and they^re not afraid of me because I^ve played against them for many years."
Live coverage of the PartyPoker.net PDC US Open will be screened on NutsTV on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 May, from 7pm-12pm (BST), 2pm-7pm (local time).
NutsTV is available on Sky Guide 207 and Freeview 42.