Rod Harrington expects lots of shocks at the UK Open - and explains why Terry Jenkins is worth backing.
Last Updated: 06/06/12 1:41pm
As a player I used to hate the UK Open, but as a spectator I love it.
It's known as the FA Cup of Darts because anybody can be drawn against anybody at any stage. It is treated that way from the qualifying rounds right the way through to the final.
I love to watch the faces of the players when the draws are being made. When two big players get drawn against each other everybody has a little snigger - and when Phil Taylor's name comes out you can see everyone saying: 'Please no, please no...'
This is the tournament where you see a lot of outsiders reaching the latter stages. We've seen people like Shayne Burgess and Barrie Bates get to the final when nobody expected it.
It's highly unlikely that eight of the top 16 will reach the quarter-finals - and I can tell you that someone will come out of nowhere and surprise all of the pundits.
Therefore this is a great opportunity for the players. If you're outside the top 32 and you get a nice draw it can turn your year around overnight. If the players ahead of you are drawn against each other and you can get a few thousand pounds on the board then you can fly up the rankings.
I also love the way it's covered on Sky Sports. We try to get around all of the boards and we try to bring the viewers updates from all the corners of the room. Last year Speedy Services even took over my Twitter account to give updates and I got a lot of good feedback from that.
Everybody has their favourite, everybody has their local player and in the UK Open, they all have a chance.
The early rounds
The PDC has already held eight UK Open events, all with a totally open draw (which means that Phil Taylor could draw Raymond van Barneveld in a prelim game). The top 32 after those eight events go straight into round three on Friday night.
Everybody else has to play in the earlier rounds on Thursday.
As a result there are some big names in the early rounds. You'll see James Wade on Thursday night, who ducked out of a couple of the qualifying events and now finds himself in a tricky position.
Everybody is talking about Ted Hankey, who is also in the preliminary round. He's a great character, but I think it's taken him longer than expected to get used to the depth in standard of the PDC.
He wouldn't have needed to push himself too much in the early rounds of the BDO and WDF competitions, but he needs to be on the ball from the very first game in the PDC. He's just getting his head around that and he is throwing some good darts, but this tournament will be tough for him.
He could play Mervyn King in the second round, who is a class player. He's always capable of a flash of form and Hankey needs to be careful of that.
Paul Nicholson is involved on Thursday and he's been disappointed with his form of late. He was on the brink of a Premier League position a few months ago, but he ended last year badly and he hasn't started 2012 too well either.
He needs to focus and get his game in order on Thursday night.
The young guns
The PDC has allowed me to start a Youth Tour and we're seeing a lot of the players progress much quicker than I thought they would.
Keep an eye on them at the UK Open. I was with them in Germany last weekend and the standard is frightening. I'm convinced that some of the young players are going to take some scalps.
Michael Smith is one of the brightest talents in the game and he could cause a few upsets.
Last Saturday I saw a player called Jamie Lewis hit eight consecutive scoring legs where he didn't fall below 140. There's loads of guys like this coming through. They're not scared of the big stage or the big names and they attack the dart board all the time.
This could be the tournament where some of the youngsters really make their mark.
Phil Taylor is the obvious favourite. That's an easy statement to make.
But if you're looking for a good outside bet, I would look at Terry Jenkins. If he stays away from Taylor in the draw he could go far.
I had a go at him a couple of years ago for not being professional enough, but I think he now deserves to be praised up. He's put up a cabin in his back garden, he's been practising hard and his form has really come on.
I've been watching him closely and if you want to beat this guy you'll need to be at the top of your game. If you throw more than 15 darts in a leg you won't win too many.
I also think Mark Webster and Justin Pipe could do well. This tournament seems to suit the old gruellers of the game, who get their heads down like a running back and keep going and going.
But I feel that game on game, Terry Jenkins could be the best value in this tournament.