Cazoo Masters: Doby can give holder Cullen plenty to think about

The biggest darts event since the World Championship, the 2023 Cazoo Masters, begins on Friday with holder Joe Cullen starting his defence against Chris Dobey in the first round.

The top 24 in the PDC Order of Merit will descend upon Milton Keynes, with the first round seeing the 16 players ranked 9-24 in the world face-off, before the eight winners graduate to meet the Order of Merit's top eight in the second round.

And there's more than enough reason for players to want to perform on the Marshall Arena stage - prize money has been given a boost, with the winner earning £65,000 and the runner-up £30,000.

Cullen is far from favourite to win the tournament again, coming in as a considerable long shot at 50/1. He is ranked 12th in the world but faces a tough task even making the second round, with 2023 World Championship quarter-finalist Dobey standing in his way.

Dobey is seen as the underdog at 13/10 to defeat the holder, who comes in as 4/5 favourite, but could offer real value. He defeated Gary Anderson and Rob Cross on his way to the World Championship quarter-finals while also registering a 170 checkout. A safer bet has Dobey at 8/11 to win with a +1.5 handicap.

The favourite for the tournament as ever, Michael van Gerwen at 11/4. He was unlucky to fall to a 10-9 defeat to champion Peter Wright in a high-scoring Nordic Masters quarter-final, and as PDC Order of Merit #3 he'll come in at the second round of the Masters.

In that match, he will face the winner of the first-round tie between Jose de Sousa and Gabriel Clemens, a tight clash which sees De Sousa narrow favourite at 10/11 ahead of the evens Clemens.

The PDC Order of Merit #1 Michael Smith, meanwhile, is second favourite at 9/2. He suffered his first loss in the Nordic Masters since becoming World Champion earlier this year, falling in the semi-final to Wright, but this will represent his first major tournament as World Champion.

Wright himself comes in at 9/1 to win a second Masters title. The Scot got back to winning ways in Denmark in some fashion, as he defeated Van Gerwen, Smith and Gerwyn Price in succession.

He will hope to build on that momentum as he enters the Masters in the second round against either Ryan Searle or Dave Chisnall. At 4/6, Chisnall is favourite to qualify for the match against 'Snakebite' Wright.

Gerwyn Price also looks to be returning to form in time for the Masters. He was the losing finalist at the Nordic Masters, hitting the highest checkout of the tournament with a 156 in the final, and came out the 11-10 winner against Jonny Clayton in their thrilling all-Welsh semi-final.

At 6/1 he could offer value and is likely to have a winnable second-round game against Dirk van Duijvenbode, who is 8/13 to defeat Krzysztof Ratajski, 6/4, to make it through to Price.

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