What is the UK Open?

What Is The Darts UK Open?

It is regarded as one of the most unpredictable and open tournaments on the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) calendar, the UK Open provides plenty of shocks and surprises every year. Often labelled as the ‘FA Cup of Darts’, the UK Open is held annually on the first weekend of March at Butlin’s Minehead Resort.

The multi-board event offers automatic entry to all 128 PDC tour card holders, along with the eight best performers from the previous season’s Challenge and Development Tours and 16 Riley’s Amateur Qualifiers. The UK Open darts boasts a £600,000 total prize fund (£110,000 to the winner) with Belgium’s Dimitri Van den Bergh the latest name to join a roll of honour that includes many legends of the game such as Phil Taylor, Michael van Gerwen, Raymond van Barneveld and Gary Anderson.

Why is it called the ‘FA Cup of Darts’

UK Open Darts

The PDC’s master of ceremonies John McDonald (left) conducts a draw during the UK Open with Alan Warriner-Little (centre) and Chris Mason (right)

The darts UK Open is known as the ‘FA Cup of Darts’ as it follows the long-running football competition in operating a random draw after each round. The top 32 players on the PDC Order of Merit receive a bye through to the fourth round of the tournament, but there is no seedings which means in theory the world number one and world number two in the rankings could be drawn against each other at any point.

Much like in football’s FA Cup, the PDC darts UK Open includes a mix of players with various levels of experience, from current Premier League stars such as Luke Humphries and Luke Littler to a bunch of contenders that have won through the Riley’s Amateur Qualifiers to earn a spot in the field. This unique format has caused lots of unpredictability in the past, including in 2016 when Riley’s qualifier Barry Lynn made it all the way to the quarter-finals, with his run notable for a surprising 9-3 victory against the then two-time reigning PDC world champion Gary Anderson in the fourth round.

UK Open History

The UK Open was first held in 2003 at the home ground of Bolton Wanderers, then known as the Reebok Stadium. Phil Taylor won the inaugural staging of the tournament, beating Shayne Burgess in the final, and he would go on to claim victory in five of the first 11 editions.

Butlin’s Minehead is the answer to where is the UK Open darts held nowadays, with it switching venues in 2014. The same year also marked a change in the UK Open darts TV coverage, as ITV took over from Sky Sports as the home broadcaster. The first year the event moved to Minehead saw one of its biggest upsets when Aden Kirk, playing in his first match on television, knocked out Phil Taylor 9-7 in the third round.

The UK Open has found its place in the history books as the first major success for many of the game’s top stars, with Peter Wright and Nathan Aspinall amongst the players who claimed their maiden PDC major title at Butlin’s Minehead. Danny Noppert (2022) and Andrew Gilding (2023) also joined the roll of honour of PDC major winners at the UK Open in recent years, before Dimitri Van den Bergh doubled his personal major tally with his triumph in the 2024 edition.

UK Open Winners

Dimitri Van den Bergh

Dimitri Van den Bergh joined the UK Open roll of honour in 2024

Here is a list of UK Open darts winners since its first staging in 2003. Phil Taylor, Michael van Gerwen, James Wade and Raymond van Barneveld are the only multi-time champions. Wade holds the honour of winning his three UK Open titles in three different decades, whilst the unpredictable nature of the tournament has come to the fore in recent years with Dimitri Van den Bergh’s success in 2024 making it nine different champions in the last nine years.

UK Open roll of honour
2003 – Phil Taylor
2004 – Roland Scholten
2005 – Phil Taylor
2006 – Raymond van Barneveld
2007 – Raymond van Barneveld
2008 – James Wade
2009 – Phil Taylor
2010 – Phil Taylor
2011 – James Wade
2012 – Robert Thornton
2013 – Phil Taylor
2014 – Adrian Lewis
2015 – Michael van Gerwen
2016 – Michael van Gerwen
2017 – Peter Wright
2018 – Gary Anderson
2019 – Nathan Aspinall
2020 – Michael van Gerwen
2021 – James Wade
2022 – Danny Noppert
2023 – Andrew Gilding
2024 – Dimitri Van den Bergh

Tournament Format

The UK Open darts format has undergone many different iterations over the years. In 2019, a significant change to the qualifying structure saw the previous UK Open Qualifiers scrapped and all 128 PDC tour card holders were given automatic entry into the tournament. Since 2023, the tour card holders have been joined by the eight best players from the previous year’s Challenge and Development Tour Order of Merits and the 16 winners of the Riley’s Amateur Qualifiers.

Whilst there is no seeding for this unique tournament, the higher-ranked players do have the benefit of a bye through to the latter rounds, with players ranked 1-32 on the PDC Order of Merit entering in the fourth round. Tour card holders ranked 33 and below start off with all of the qualifiers in the opening session on the Friday afternoon.

The UK Open darts order of play sees rounds 1-4 played on the first day, rounds 5-6 on the second day, and then the event concludes with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final on the third day.

Here is a breakdown of the tournament’s current format:-

  • Rounds 1,2 and 3 – best of 11 legs
  • Rounds 4, 5, 6 and the quarter-finals – best of 19 legs
  • Semi-finals and final – best of 21 legs
  • A random FA Cup-style draw is carried out live on stage after each round following the third round onwards
  • Play is split across eight different stages for rounds 1-4, four stages cover round 5, two stages for round 6 and only the main stage is used for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final

Records and Statistics

Phil Taylor Darts

Phil Taylor twice set the record for the highest televised three-dart average at the UK Open

Over the years many records have been broken at the UK Open, including the highest televised three-dart average on more than one occasion. In 2008, Phil Taylor eclipsed Darryl Fitton’s 114.15 average, set at the 2004 International Darts League, by averaging 114.53 in his fifth-round win against Wes Newton. Two years later, Taylor broke his own record with an average of 118.66 in his fourth-round victory over Kevin Painter. It was a record which would stand for almost six years before being eclipsed by Michael van Gerwen during the 2016 Premier League.

In the early years of the UK Open, Deta Hedman wrote her name in the history books by becoming the first female player to beat a man in a televised major darts event. Hedman claimed a pair of wins against Aaron Turner and Norman Fletcher in the 2005 edition of the UK Open, several years before the likes of Anastasia Dobromyslova, Fallon Sherrock, Lisa Ashton and Beau Greaves followed in her footsteps with victories against the men in front of the television cameras.

Who has won the UK Open the most?

Phil Taylor currently holds the record for the most UK Open titles with five victories, all of which came in the first 11 years of the tournament’s history. Michael van Gerwen and James Wade are next on the list with three wins each, with Wade’s trio of titles particularly notable as he is the only player to have won the UK Open in three different decades.

Raymond van Barneveld completes the list of multiple-time winners with a pair of victories after his switch from the BDO to the PDC. ‘Barney’ was also the first player to successfully defend the title as he followed up his debut win in 2006 by retaining the title 12 months later. Taylor (2009 and 2010) and van Gerwen (2015 and 2016) are the only other players to have won the UK Open in back-to-back years.

How many 9 dart finishes have there been since 2003?

The UK Open has seen plenty of nine-dart finishes with 15 perfect legs having been thrown during the first 20 years of its history. Phil Taylor was the first player to achieve this feat, throwing a nine darter in back-to-back years in 2004 and 2005, with ‘The Power’ receiving a unique prize for completing the perfect leg of 501 in nine darts. Budweiser, the title sponsors of the UK Open at the time, presented Taylor with 501 bottles of the Budweiser beer for throwing a nine-dart leg!

Taylor also holds the record for the most nine darters at the UK Open with four, with Michael van Gerwen second on that list with two perfect legs in 2016 and 2020. In 2022, there was a record three nine-dart finishes thrown that year with Jose Justicia, James Wade and Michael Smith all writing their name in the history books by completing a leg of 501 in the minimum number of darts.

Who has scored the highest average in the UK Open?

Phil Taylor Darts

The five-time UK Open champion Phil Taylor set the UK Open’s highest match average in 2010

As mentioned earlier, the UK Open has featured prominently in the history of the highest televised match averages. Phil Taylor set a world record during matches played in the tournament in 2008 and 2010, with the latter still standing as the highest average in a match at the UK Open.

Taylor’s 118.66 average in his last 32 clash with Kevin Painter in 2010 is the highest average recorded at the UK Open. In fact, the 16-time world champion still holds seven of the top 10 recorded averages in UK Open history, with Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright the only other two players to feature on this impressive list of averages. Van Gerwen’s 114.91, from 2015, sits fourth on the list and Wright’s 110.88, set in 2017, occupies eighth spot. 

What is the prize money for the UK Open of Darts?

Like many of the other major tournaments on the PDC calendar, the prize money for UK Open darts has enjoyed a healthy rise over the years. The inaugural edition of the UK Open in 2003 had a total prize fund of £124,000, including £30,000 for the winner. Fast forward to 2024 and the total prize pot now stands at £600,000, with £110,000 going to the champion.

Players who start in round one of the tournament must win one match to get into the money, with second-round losers pocketing £1,000 each. All of the prize money is added to the PDC Order of Merit, which is the official world rankings of the PDC.

Below is the UK Open darts prize money breakdown for 2024:-

Winner - £110,000
Runner-up - £50,000
Semi-finalists - £30,000
Quarter-finalists - £15,000
Round 6 (last 16) - £10,000
Round 5 (last 32) - £5,000
Round 4 (last 64) - £2,500
Round 3 (last 96) - £1,500
Round 2 (last 128) - £1,000
Round 1 (last 160) - £0

The Darts UK Open 2024

Darts UK Open

The popular multi-board room at Butlin’s Minehead features six boards in use during the first day of the UK Open

Dimitri Van den Bergh held off a late fightback from Luke Humphries to win the 2024 UK Open, beating the world number one 11-10 in the final at Butlin’s Minehead. The Belgian had stormed into a 7-2 lead, only to miss six match darts as the 2024 PDC world champion battled back to take the match to a decider at 10-10. A thrilling last leg saw Humphries spurn two match darts of his own, before Van den Bergh checked out 64 to take home the £110,000 top prize.

Van den Bergh’s victory saw him climb up several places on the PDC Order of Merit and up to number seven in the world. The run to the final for Humphries helped him move more than £400,000 clear at the top of the world rankings. Meanwhile, Australia’s Damon Heta surged into the world’s top 10 after a run to the semi-finals. The run was notable for his 106.04 average in a 10-8 triumph over Luke Littler in the quarter-finals.

What’s next?

The 2024 UK Open is now in the books and once again the ‘FA Cup of Darts’ provided lots of drama and surprises. The three-time champion Michael van Gerwen was knocked out in the fourth round by a resurgent Mensur Suljovic, whilst Gary Anderson’s bid for a second title ended at the hands of Martin Lukeman, who produced a finishing masterclass to knock out the 2018 winner in the last 16.

The UK Open has a rich history and Darts Corner is excited to see what the tournament has in store over the coming years. For readers wanting to know when is the UK Open darts and is the UK darts open on TV, the 2025 edition is set to be held from February 28 to March 2 and will be shown live on ITV.

Keep up to date with the latest darts news and updates in the ‘Darts News’ section of our blog.

Pictures: PDC

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