Simon Whitlock believes the 2013 PDC World Championship is the most competitive ever.
The popular Australian, who is now based in Waterlooville, begins the quest for his first world title tomorrow night.
Whitlock will face the winner of the preliminary-round tie between Haruki Muramatsu and Dave Harrington – a New Zealander who used to play at the same club as Whitlock in Brisbane.
But while predictably Phil Taylor is the bookmakers’ favourite for a 16th world title, Whitlock is in a sizeable group of players who will be gunning for the top prize in the sport.
Whitlock said: ‘I’ve never known so many players performing this well in one year and it could be the hardest one to win yet.
‘This is the big one we all look forward to and I can’t wait to get started.
‘I feel really good within myself but all the other players are on top form.’
Reigning champion Adrian Lewis made a confident start to his defence earlier this week as he goes for an unprecedented third title on the bounce.
But Dutchman Michael van Gerwen – who was impressive in winning The Untouchables at the Pyramids recently – is considered as real contender.
Raymond van Barneveld, Gary Anderson, James Wade and Whitlock are all in the frame as well.
But you could easily argue a case for at least another six players who stand a chance of victory.
But Whitlock, who has twice been a runner-up in global showdowns – in the BDO (2008) and the PDC (2010) – broke his major tournament duck this year when he lifted the European Championship.
He has also claimed the Dutch Masters and was a finalist in the Premier League in an excellent campaign.
But after a semi-final defeat last year, the man they call the Wizard of Oz is keen to add the biggest prize of all to his CV.
He said: ‘It is everyone’s dream to be a world champion, so hopefully this year I can do it.
‘You can’t imagine the feeling to be world champion and I dream of it every single day.
‘The atmosphere is pretty special at the World Championship – it gives you goose bumps.
‘But we will just take it one game at a time and see what happens.
‘The practice has been good and my darts are going really well.’