The first round draw for the BetVictor World Matchplay darts tournament at the Winter Gardens next month has thrown up an intriguing ‘local derby’ - Fleetwood’s Wes Newton against Mereside’s Ronnie Baxter.
Local pride will be at stake, as well as place in round two in one of the outstanding ties of the opening phase.
Newton is an 80-1 shot with the sponsors to win the title, with Baxter rated a 150-1 chance.
Phil Taylor will begin his bid to win a 15th World Matchplay title against Darren Webster at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool next month, while top seed Michael van Gerwen takes on Steve Beaton in their first round clash.
Taylor, who is unbeaten at the World Matchplay since 2007 after winning a record six successive Blackpool titles, drew qualifier Darren Webster - who last competed in the event in 2005 - when the draw was made on Monday.
“I know Darren really well and it will be a tough game,” said Taylor, the 10/3 second favourite with sponsors BetVictor.
“I’ve got three weeks until the tournament now and I’ll be putting in a lot of hard work, because I know I need to.
“I’ve got to improve my game if I’m going to keep this title because it’s such a strong field this year, and if you’re not at your best you’ll be going home.
“But I love the World Matchplay and Blackpool and I’ve got some great memories there. Hopefully I’ll have some more at the end of this event!”
World Champion and number one seed Michael van Gerwen, the 2/1 tournament favourite, takes on Steve Beaton - Sunday’s Gibraltar Darts Trophy runner-up - in their first round clash, while 2013 World Matchplay finalist Adrian Lewis drew debutant Andrew Gilding.
Australian ace Simon Whitlock, the number four seed and a former semi-finalist, was draw with Kevin Painter for their first round contest.
2007 World Matchplay champion James Wade, the only other former winner in the 32-player field and Sunday’s Gibraltar Dart Trophy winner, was drawn against Andy Smith.
World Championship runner-up Peter Wright, seeded sixth, will face debutant Stephen Bunting in a tasty first round contest, with the reigning Lakeside Champion securing a coveted spot in the World Matchplay inside six months on the Professional Darts Corporation circuit.
Former UK Open champion Robert Thornton drew Paul Nicholson, Andy Hamilton faces Wayne Jones and Dave Chisnall takes on Dean Winstanley.
Gary Anderson, who has won five ranking titles in his return to the world’s top 16 this year, drew Jamie Caven, with Brendan Dolan taking on former finalist Richie Burnett.
Premier League Darts champion Raymond van Barneveld has drawn fellow Dutchman Vincent van der Voort - who sealed his place in the event by winning the Austrian Darts Open last weekend.
Mervyn King takes on Kim Huybrechts, Justin Pipe drew former World Youth Champion Michael Smith and Ian White faces Terry Jenkins, a two-time World Matchplay finalist who was also the last player to defeat Taylor in the tournament back in 2007.
The schedule of play will be confirmed in due course.
Tickets for the BetVictor World Matchplay are still available and can be purchased through www.blackpoollive.com or by calling 0844 856 1111.
2014 BetVictor World Matchplay
Michael van Gerwen (1 seed) v Steve Beaton; Ian White (16) v Terry Jenkins; Andy Hamilton (8) v Wayne Jones; Dave Chisnall (9) v Dean Winstanley; James Wade (5) v Andy Smith; Brendan Dolan (12) v Richie Burnett; Simon Whitlock (4) v Kevin Painter;
Raymond van Barneveld (13) v Vincent van der Voort; Phil Taylor (2) v Darren Webster; Justin Pipe (15) v Michael Smith; Robert Thornton (7) v Paul Nicholson; Wes Newton (10) v Ronnie Baxter; Peter Wright (6) v Stephen Bunting; Gary Anderson (11) v Jamie Caven; Adrian Lewis (3) v Andrew Gilding; Mervyn King (14) v Kim Huybrechts.