The calm before the storm
Prior to the headline grabbing action of the World Grand Prix, there is a final chance to warm up for the big boys, and another chance to claim some scalps for the minnows in the Players Championship events this weekend.
With the Grand Prix getting underway on Monday, the 13th and 14th Players Championship events of the season take place in the same city as the famous double-in, double-out competition, Dublin.
Known as the Killarney Darts Festival there will be some unfamiliar faces on show as both Saturday and Sunday’s tournaments are open to non-PDPA members from across Ireland who will be hoping to cause some big upsets across the short format.
Although Phil Taylor can’t be tempted into a performance away from the television cameras, the rest of the big names on the circuit certainly won’t be turning down this crucial bit of big game practice before a major tournament. The world champ Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld being the notable names on the sign-up list as they often gives these lesser competitions a miss over the year. The Power’s choice to skip these events is something of a surprise because he won the Saturday competition last year and it proved to be a perfect warm-up for the Grand Prix which he also won.
Even without the world number one there are more big fish in the pond than normal and result will be even more difficult to call; not that it is usually with eight different players having won the 12 Players Champs events thus far.
The man who won the last one was of course Simon Whitlock and he followed up that success with a first televised title when he claimed the European Championship in Germany. With two big wins within a month, he has to be described as the man in form, but three other top players laid down markers by winning the opening trio of Championship League groups. Wes Newton, Justin Pipe and Ronnie Baxter are perhaps surprisingly the first three men to qualify for the winners’ group and given they can win such a tough floor contest, then there is nothing to say they can’t do the same at the weekend.
Two more contenders who you would expect to be jostling for the £6,000 winners’ cheque are Dave Chisnall and Michael van Gerwen. Incredibly the pair have shared five of the 12 tournaments so far this year which is some feat seen as they are ranked 13th and 25th in the world respectively. Both are on the climb though in terms of rankings and many will be surprised if they are not top 10 and top 20 by next year.