We’re exactly a month out from the Betfred World Matchplay in Blackpool. The top 16 players in the Order of Merit qualify for the tournament as seeds and will be joined by the top 16 players on the Pro Tour Order of Merit.
The big names have tended to dominate the Matchplay – Phil Taylor has won the tournament 16 times, 14 more than any other player. Rod Harrington and Michael van Gerwen are the only other players to have won multiple titles.
There’s some really interesting players further down the field as we head towards this year’s tournament though – so let’s take a look at some potential outsiders for the outright…
We’ve seen what Callan Rydz can do on the big stage: the 23-year-old put serious pressure on Peter Wright in their World Championships quarter-final back in January. In fact, Rydz was the only player to finish within a single set of Snakebite on his route to becoming World Champion.
His form since that night has been patchy – which is reflected in the betting – but there’s clearly a lot of talent there and there’s every chance he ends up winning a major at a big price at some point.
The Heat is averaging a remarkable 98.32 this calendar year – which is second only to Michael van Gerwen.
He is averaging 43.89 on the doubles over the past 12 months, which is the very best of any player in the world.
He is yet to reach the semi-final stage of a major but has clearly taken huge strides forward since the turn of the year and will be a real threat in Blackpool. His record against the big names will be a concern – he has lost 11 of his 14 matches against the current top two players in the world.
However, the recent improvement in his game cannot be overstated so don’t expect those kinds of records to last long. Winning the World Cup last weekend will do his confidence no harm whatsoever, either.
28/1 for a player whose finishing is second to none and whose scoring is second marginally to MvG looks a very good bet.
The only Premier League player on the list, Joe Cullen seems to be overlooked somewhat in the betting. We saw at The Masters how he can blitz players with his A-game and, over the course of the year, we’ve seen the level behind that rise and rise.
Ultimately, The Rockstar finished ahead of Price, Wright, Anderson and Smith in the PL despite only having a couple of nights where he seemed at his very best.
Playing against the world’s best every week might bring down win percentages and head-to-head records, but it raises your level massively and Joe Cullen goes into this one having not looked out of place staring the stage with the favourites.
As a player outside the top ten and with 0 senior majors to his name, it’s fair to catergorise Luke Humphries (pictured above) as an outsider here… but only just.
The level that “Cool Hand” has been playing at leading up to the Matchplay is frankly ridiculous: he has a Players Championship and 3 European Tour titles to his name this year already and goes into this tournament as quite possibly the most in-form player in the world.
On route to one of those European Tour titles, he beat Michael van Gerwen 7-0! This isn’t a plucky underdog, this is a Superstar-in-waiting, a first senior major feels inevitable and it’d be no real surprise if it came next month.