Rod Harrington and Wayne Mardle say there are many potential winners of World Darts Championship

Last Updated: 21/12/12 3:38pm

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Van Barneveld: star performer in round one

Van Barneveld: star performer in round one

The Sky Sports experts are convinced that this year's World Darts Championship remains the most open in the competition's 20-year history.

Raymond van Barneveld produced arguably the performance of the first round with a 108.31 average in his victory against Michael Smith, while bookmakers' favourite Phil Taylor didn't even make the top eight averages in round one.

The likes of Robert Thornton, Gary Anderson, Simon Whitlock and Kevin Painter all scored higher than The Power and pundit Rod Harrington reckons that's evidence that there's a long list of potential winners of the Sid Waddell Trophy.

"The funny thing is when you look at the averages, Phil Taylor, for the first time, hasn't been in there," he said.

"He's got to turn up in the next round and set his stall out. If he doesn't have a real good game then people will start thinking maybe it isn't going to be Phil's year after all.

"You can't write Phil off because he can just turn up and win it off the bat, but for me, there's eight to 10 players who can possibly win this."
Rod Harrington

"With all the other players that are playing that well, especially Barney, you're going to be looking at other players to win it.

"It's still the most open tournament we've ever had. We could name eight to 10 players that can lift that crown on January 1.

"Barney with his performance in and winning the Grand Slam and coming here on form and Michael van Gerwen too.

"And obviously you can't write Phil off because he can just turn up and win it off the bat, but for me, there's eight to 10 players who can possibly win this."

Only five of the 32-ranked players fell at the first hurdle with Wayne Jones, Andy Smith, Jamie Caven, Kim Huybrechts and Mervyn King losing to non-ranked players in the first round.

And fellow Sky Sports expert Wayne Mardle was shocked there weren't a few more upsets, given the overall standard in the professional game.

"I'm slightly surprised," he said.

"There's players - too many to mention - like John Bowles and Stuart Kellett that are so, so dangerous. I'm amazed.

"Eric Bristow said he thought there would have been over 10 of the top 32 to go out when we chatted about it before the start.

"The seeds have taken the chances that they've been given and I think that's because they play on the big stage so much now, there's more money in the game and they're more professional.

"That's paying dividends for them."

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