Perennial World Matchplay king Phil Taylor arrives at the Winter Gardens ahead of the 2014 instalment in patchy form.
Aden Kirk, Michael Smith and Jamie Bain are three of the lesser lights to have stifled the greatest tungsten tosser of all time in recent weeks, which has sparked whispers around the locker room that the 14-time champ isn’t quite as formidable as he once was.
With that in mind, we’ve highlighted three minions who’ll be eyeing the overlord’s seat in 2014.
Robert Thornton – 33/1
The bright lights of Blackpool have never shone favourably on the Thorn, who is yet to advance beyond the first round of the tournament.
Soaring into number seven in the world rankings after residing in 55th as recently as 2012, writing the resurgent Scot off is a dicey game to play.
He won the UK Open without a hint of support in 2012, as well as making the World Grand Prix final last year and he’s bested last-32 adversary Paul Nicholson in five of their previous six meetings ahead of their match on Sunday.
Brendan Dolan – 66/1
The History Maker has slain eight of his previous 12 foes at the oche and ventured as far as the quarter finals in his last major appearance, the UK Open.
His first round opponent Richie Burnett has bested just one top-20 player in his last 38 outings and shouldn’t provide much of an early obstacle for on-song Dolan.
Stephen Bunting – 40/1
Michael van Gerwen is just one of the heavy hitters to have bitten the Bullet since his switching of allegiances from BDO to PDC in January of this year.
He’s averaging an imperious 95.57 this year and has the potential to burrow deep into this event, despite a tricky opening round tie with Peter Wright.