The top 24 players in the PDC Order of Merit will be competing to get the new season off to a perfect start and it's world number one Gerwyn Price who is the early favourite to clinch this title for the first time at 7/2, World Champion Peter Wright is close behind at 9/2 with reigning Masters champion Jonny Clayton available at 7/1 to retain the title. My tip to win the tournament, Michael Smith, is currently 9/1.
More than a TV title up for grabs
Winning this tournament 12 months ago was the start of what quickly became The Year of the Ferret for Jonny Clayton.
Upon lifting the trophy, he was told that he'd also landed himself a place in the Premier League. Whilst I don't necessarily think the winner of this event will claim a spot, I think there are a number of players who know that a good run in Milton Keynes could see them take part in the recently modified Premier League; mainly Rob Cross, Luke Humphries and Ryan Searle.
All three of the above have a superb chance of progressing past the first round but it's Rob Cross who would have the most favourable second round tie.
Rob Cross to progress
If Voltage is able to beat Brendan Dolan for a fourth successive time, he will take on Jose de Sousa, the player in the top eight most at risk of losing out on a Premier League spot, in my opinion.
A resurgent Cross looked close to his best at times in the second half of 2021 and I think we're going to see him back in the business end of many more tournaments this year.
Cross's scoring power at the World Championship was superb, hitting 24 180s over his three matches and looking typically impressive on the 18 segment too.
The History Maker is always a tricky opponent but I'm backing Cross to hit the most 180s and win the match at 11/8.
Luke Humphries could benefit from Asp withdrawal
Following the withdrawal of Nathan Aspinall due to injury, debutant Cool Hand Luke will face Devon Petersen on Friday night.
Humphries who is continuing to make strides in the game demonstrated how much he has grown mentally at the World Championship, his board management is improving and I'm confident that we are going to see him start picking up big titles in the very near future.
The 26-year-old is climbing up the rankings, he's hungry and certainly maturing as a darts player. He's learnt to deal with setbacks and things going against him up on the oche and is certainly more resilient.
Things were very different for The African Warrior on tour in 2021, it was a tough year and he'll be hoping to recapture the form and confidence that saw him more consistently average around the ton mark for much of 2020.
I'm backing the in form Humphries to complete the match treble of highest checkout, most 180s and win the match at 6/4.