Gary Anderson is the defending champion at the UK Open this weekend (Picture: PA Wire)The UK Open is one of the most sought-after trophies in world darts, one of the ‘proper’ PDC majors, and yet it has always struggled to get the proper recognition in terms of prize money.
The top prize in Minehead has received a hefty boost this year, increasing from £70,000 to a chunky £100,000, however, it is still lagging behind other tournaments.
The UK Open offers a smaller winner’s cheque than the World Championship, Premier League, Matchplay, Grand Slam and Grand Prix, while it is level with the Players Championship Finals and Champions League.
Is the UK Open the joint-sixth most significant tournament in the PDC? Most would say it is considerably more prestigious than that. One of those in that camp being two-time world champion Adrian Lewis.
Adrian Lewis won the UK Open in 2014 (Picture: PA)‘It’s the Worlds, then the Matchplay then it’s got to be the UK Open,’ said Lewis.
‘This is the first one of the real majors for me, it’s one everyone looks forward to.’
The appeal of the UK Open is the enormous field (160 players this year), featuring all of the world’s best players and some talented amateurs chancing their arm on the big stage. It is marketed as ‘The FA Cup of Darts’ and that is an accurate description.
It constantly provides shocks, it is always exciting, and most of all, it is incredibly hard to win.
Lewis continued: ‘It’s one of the toughest ones, it’s a big old slog because you play once on the Friday, twice on the Saturday and then up to four games on the Sunday. It has been underpaid because it’s one of the toughest ones to win.’
Gerwyn Price believes the huge field makes the UK Open a tough ask (Picture: Michael Cooper)Reigning Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price concurred, saying: ‘To be honest, it can be harder to win a Pro Tour than to win a major.
‘There’s 128 players in a Pro Tour and only 32 in some majors. There’s 160 players in this UK Open!’
The difficulty of winning the event is illustrated by the range of champions since it debuted in 2003. Even at the height of Phil Taylor’s dominance on the oche, he couldn’t quite master the UK Open entirely, only retaining the title once. Nine different men have lifted the trophy in 16 years.
Until Peter Wright lost in his second final in 2016, there had been a different runner-up in all 13 editions of the tournament to that point. It is extremely hard to do well in this event.
Jonny Clayton knows the quality that lesser-known players possess (Picutre: Getty Images)World number 15 Jonny Clayton has played in four UK Opens and knows full well how difficult they are given the unrelenting high standard of the field, from the top players to the pub qualifiers.
‘It is hard, as any darts fan will know, if you play one of the Riley’s qualifiers that you don’t know much about, those games can be as hard as Van Gerwen,’ said the Welshman.
Adrian Lewis again: ‘Now I hope for the best and expect the worst, that’s the best way to play it, take every game as it comes.
‘There’s no such thing as a good draw now. If you come out of the blocks slow, it doesn’t matter who they are, they’ll punish you.’
Far be it from me to criticise a top prize of £100,000 for a three-day darts tournament, and the PDC are consistently working wonders in providing financial opportunity for players.
However, the UK Open might just need a bump up the pecking order given the immense size of the task in hand to lift the trophy in Minehead.
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