Mark Walsh v Colin Osborne
The second of two first round matches at Winter Gardens where bookmakers are unable to determine a clear favourite. However, it is Mark Walsh, as the seeded player, who is given the slightly shorter odds of 1.80 in comparison to Colin Osborne’s 1.95.
The two players have yet to meet each other this season, but did cross paths four times last year with Osborne winning three of them to take a 9-7 advantage in the career head-to-head stats.
Neither player has done much of note in front of the cameras, or away from them, of late and both have dismal records in Blackpool. The slightly larger odds on Osborne make him the gun-to-head selection, but in truth this is a match worth avoiding in terms of betting.
Kevin Painter v Steve Beaton
Steve Beaton scraped into this year’s World Matchplay by the relatively small matter of £900 in the PDC Pro Tour Order of Merit, providing definitive evidence that the 1996 Lakeside World Champion’s game is in decline. Whether that deterioration is terminal only time will tell, but if it does continue then we may not see the unmistakable cut of the Bronze Adonis figure on our screens for too much longer.
Kevin Painter, on the other hand, is, arguably, playing the best darts of his career. Victory at the Players Championship Finals at the back end of last season helped secure him a Premier League place where he narrowly missed out on a semi-final berth.
Interestingly it is Beaton who has the considerable 13-7 head-to-head advantage, including winning the last six. But on that big stage, in front of the big crowds Painter is a different beast and I fancy him to justify favouritism at odds of 1.53.
James Wade v Richie Burnett
If Painter’s rejuvenation in the game were to be described as admirable, Richie Burnett’s would have to go down as remarkably outstanding. Having fell completely off the radar the Prince of Wales is now back up to number 28 in the PDC rankings and will make his first appearance at the Winter Gardens in eight years.
Both of these players would have been disappointed to draw the other in the opening round, but for the onlooker it is a real mouth-waterer. Between them they have seven semi-final appearances in Blackpool, five finals and the one title attributed to James Wade that he won in 2007.
Burnett bounced back to form with a run to the semi-finals, including a first-round 121 three-dart average, of the European Tour event in Dusseldorf a fortnight ago, while Wade has been performing in fits and starts this year. So, at the odds on offer, we have to go for the 3.15 available on the Welshman.
Simon Whitlock v Michael van Gerwen
If Wade v Burnett is the main course of the evening then this match is a suitable, and equally intriguing, dessert. I’ve been impressed with Michael van Gerwen over the past 12 months as he begins to realise some of the immense potential that he possesses, while Simon Whitlock’s class and quality is unquestionable.
The Australian has performed consistently since he last graced our screens at the UK Open, reaching at least the quarter-final in each of the six events he has entered. The Dutchman, typically, hasn’t shown as much consistency but has won a Pro Tour event in Birmingham where he beat Whitlock in the final to clinch the title.
The past six weeks perfectly summarise these two players with one being incredibly consistent while the other is extremely erratic, but often brilliant. Given Van Gerwen’s ability to blow hot and cold I’d advise small stakes, but it is that potential hot streak that makes him a good bet at the 3.15 on offer for him to win this one.
Burnett to win at 3.15.
Van Gerwen to win at 3.15.