A guide through the world of the Professional Darts Corporation's major tournaments and hopefully helping you pick some winners along the way. Guest expert opinion from 2-time World Champion and Legend of the game Dennis Priestley!!!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Field Opens up in Berlin

It seems that the UK Open did not quench the thirst of the darting underdog as the first day of the German Darts Championship saw big names tumble out with shocking regularity.

Having made their way all the way over to Berlin and with the Matchplay just around the corner, the top players were expected to bring their A-game, but with three of the world’s top four gone after day one, it looks more like a C for effort and D for attainment for the big boys.

For James Wade and Adrian Lewis to both go out in the first round on the same evening is almost unheard of in a major competition, but that is exactly what happened on Friday night.  The world champion was unlucky to an extent as his average of plus-97 was perfectly good, but he met an inspired James Hubbard at the wrong time. The same can’t be said about Wade though who threw a miserable 91.09 to bow out to his old foe Mensur Suljovic, bringing back terrible memories of his shock World Championship defeat two years ago.

Gary Anderson was forced to withdraw with an eye problem so can’t be blamed, but the shocks results still hadn’t finished.  Michael Rosenauer seeing off world finalist Andy Hamilton, Michael Mansell beating UK Open quarter-finalist Jamie Caven and Reece Robinson eliminating Richie Burnett are all major upsets that may be swept under the carpet with the likes of Wade and Lewis crashing out.

Of course, Phil Taylor did not succumb to the same problem as the great man fired in a 103 average to beat Jerry Hendricks and the Power will now be the overwhelming favourite to lift the title on Sunday.

The opportunities are now there though for the chasing pack and the likes of Justin Pipe, Dave Chisnall and Wes Newton will be all the more confident of a win against the odds now some of the heavy hitters are gone.

With the remaining field it is Taylor’s to lose, especially if he can keep up his thee-figure averages; but if day one is anything to go by we could be in for some very unusual results on Saturday.

Quarter Final Tips: Taylor, Van Barneveld, Newton, Pipe, King, Chisnall, Whitlock, Huybrechts

Monday, 18 June 2012

The Pendulum Swings in the Matchplay Hunt

The desperate scramble for Matchplay places took a surprise turn in Birmingham at the weekend as an unfancied contender entered the fray and has the final qualification spot in his grasp.

There are just two Pro Tour events to go now before the big one in Blackpool and Darren Webster looks like he could make an unlikely appearance at the Winter Gardens after his second quarter-final run of the year.

The man known as the Sniper has had a fairly bizarre career on the oche thus far as he made a decent impact in 2007 reaching the quarter-finals of the worlds and the last 16 of the UK Open, but never committing to full-time darts he has never really kicked on; now though he is showing his quality again.

Webster finished as high as 28th on the UK Open Order of Merit and made it to the last 32 after an impressive win over Michael Smith in round three.  The £2,000 he picked up in Bolton was the most he had won in the sport for five years and he has got more cash in his sights if he can sneak into the draw for the Matchplay.

He is far from guaranteed his slot yet though as the chasing pack are of some serious quality and within striking distance of the Sniper on the Pro Tour Order of Merit.  Mervyn King and Peter Wright are just £400 behind him and the likes of Dennis Smith, Colin Osbourne and John Part are all just a run to a quarter-final away from catching Webster as well.

The final two events are in two weeks’ time in Crawley and it is likely that it is one of these men that will pinch the 32nd place at the Winter Gardens.  That is unless one of the lower ranked players can produce a sensational run to a final down on the south coast.  This is a huge ask, but there is great talent down the rankings and someone like Dennis Priestley, Co Stompe or Dennis Ovens could just pull off a big surprise.

There were plenty who had good weekends in Birmingham along with Webster, and none more so than Ronnie Baxter who secured his place in his home tournament in some style, winning Saturday’s event.  The Rocket consistently picks up Pro Tour events having won one every year since 2008 and that consistency has guaranteed himself a place in Blackpool along with Colin Lloyd and Rob Thornton who also performed well over the weekend.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Race for the Matchplay

A huge few weeks lie ahead for a host of players on the cusp of making the World Matchplay, with just four chances of qualifying through the Pro Tour left for the chasing pack.

As ever it is the world’s top 16 along with the top 16 in the Pro Tour Order of Merit not already qualified who make it to the Winter Gardens in Blackpool, and as ever, competition for these prestigious 32 slots is fierce.

There are just four Pro Tour events left now before things kick-off on the West Coast, two in Crawley in two weeks’ time, and more pressingly, two in Birmingham this weekend and the scramble for prize money will be furious and increasingly desperate for some.

The man in possession of the much sought after 32nd slot is Scotland’s Peter Wright who has picked up £5,000 so far this year, but with the possibility of winning £24,000 over the next four events, any number of players can still make it.

Stand out players that are set to miss out as things stand are Mervyn King, Colin Osbourne, John Part and Dennis Ovens, but that is to name just four as there are a host of top players who will also not be beside the seaside come July unless they can step up their game in Birmingham or Crawley.

The pressure will be on this chasing pack, but also on those who are holding onto their place in the 32 by their fingertips, and along with Wright, the experienced quartet of Rob Thornton, Steve Beaton, Ronnie Baxter and Colin Lloyd will be well aware that they need to pick up some cash to guarantee their places in Blackpool.

What could throw all this into a bit of confusion is the presence of the two European Tour events before the players can even consider the Matchplay. With £15,000 for the winner at each of these events, the rankings could be considerably altered by the events in Berlin and Dusseldorf.  The likes of Dave Chisnall will have his sights set on success on the continent and a move into the top 16 in the world himself.  This would mean curtains for current number 16 Wayne Jones who is way down in 67th in the Pro Tour rankings.

The possibilities to make it or miss out are almost endless right now, but what is for sure is that the pressure is mounting, and the picture of Matchplay qualification will be much clearer following this weekend’s hugely important tournaments in Birmingham.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Dark Magic - The Wizard's Unenlightened Year

Simon Whitlock is ranked number five in the PDC Order of Merit and is a two time world finalist, but he has not lived up to his fearsome reputation this year and despite eventually getting through to the Championship League winners group on Thursday, has far too regularly been on the end of shock results that have seen him crash out of tournaments in the early rounds.
After his blistering run to the final of the World Championships in 2010, much was expected of him this year in the major tournaments, but he has failed to reach the semi-final stages in each of the five biggest events, if we throw the Premier League in with the four traditional majors.
His run to the quarter-finals of the MatchPlay was his best performance of the year, but that alongside third round exits at the World Championships and the UK Open and a second round defeat at the Grand Prix is hardly the form of someone commanding a position in the top six in the world.
In fact, his performances have been significantly bettered by the two men now directly below him in the rankings (Wes Newton and Mark Webster) and matched by the likes of Andy Smith (world number 18) and Mark Hylton (38).
The worrying thing for the Wizard is that, being a seeded player, he only ever faces lower ranked players in the opening rounds of tournaments and he is still failing to make the most of his privileged position.  His four conquerors in the majors this year have been Vincent van der Voort, Co Stompe, Andy Hamilton and Hylton, all quality players no doubt, but opponents that Whitlock would be odds on favourite to beat.
The picture becomes an even uglier one when the Players Championships are painted in.  The big Aussie has competed in 20 of the 22 Players Championships so far this year and is yet to reach a final.
Twice he has been beaten by Gary Anderson in semi-finals, but on the 18 other occasions he has gone out to lower ranked players, including defeats to Mareno Michels, Michael Barnard, Davyd Venken and amazingly three separate losses to Nigel “The Undertaker” Heydon.
The Wizard’s year has been disappointing, but not an unprofitable one, as from majors alone he has picked up £38,000 and pocketed another £30,000 for his mediocre performance in the Premier League.
In a quirk of the tournament he has also earned almost £20,000 from his performances in the Championship League after failing to qualify for five days of action, but getting to at least the semi-finals each time meant he was earning over £2,000 a day, a very nice little earner indeed for a non-televised tournament.
What is undoubted is that Whitlock is a sensational player on his day; if proof was needed he has hit two nine-darters in Players Championships this year and hit another just this week against Jamie Caven in Essex.  Since his rise to the upper-echelons of the rankings he is more than capable of earning an excellent living from the game, but many would like to see him push on from this and really push for the major titles.
As far as results go the Wizard may want to write 2011 off, but what he should see it as is a learning curve and a building block for better performances next year.  A good run in the Players Championships Finals in Doncaster in December, and some serious work over Christmas and I expect the Wizard to produce some magic again at the World Championships.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Taylor takes his tenth title - Dolan re-orders the Order of Merit

Finally we had a night where there were no surprises and order was restored as Phil Taylor saw off Brendan Dolan 6-3 to win his tenth World Grand Prix final and get his hands back on two major trophies.

It was not so long ago that the demise of the Power was being widely forecast, but by winning in Dublin last night and the World Matchplay back in July he has put to rest any fears about his form and reminded all his closest rivals that they have an awful long way to go to usurp him as world number one.

The final ended in a highly predictable outcome but it was still an entertaining affair as Dolan continued to play some excellent stuff and kept the game alive as he won sets to make it 2-1 and 3-2.

The result was never really in doubt though and Taylor didn’t even need to be quite at his ruthless best on the doubles (just 34% on finishing) to win the contest and pick up the £100,000 prize money.

Brenan Dolan will be thrilled with his performance throughout the tournament and will be pleased he gave a good account of himself in the final, he has won a lot of admirers, a lot of money and a significantly improved world ranking this week.  Undoubtedly the best seven days of his career.

As the dust settles in Dublin, here are the winners and losers in the Order of Merit…


Predictably the surprise finalist Brendan Dolan has significantly improved on his ranking and crucially as the World Championships approaches, has stormed into the top 32.  With the elite 32 in the rankings gaining automatic qualification to the biggest event of the year, his move up from 36th to 25th is huge, and with an over £20,000 buffer, he is very unlikely to lose the prized place.


The pressure continues to mount on Raymond van Barneveld as his exit in the second round has cost him dearly as he drops from sixth to eighth in the rankings, the lowest he has been for years.  Newton and Webster are the two who have overtaken him and they are players on the rise, Barney must stop the rot or find himself dropping further down the standings.


John Henderson is continuing to make an impact in the PDC, after only re-joining the company in January of this year.  His run to the quarter-finals and the prize money of £12,500 has seen him jump from 58th to 45th and although the top 32 will be out of his reach this year, if his form continues in the Players Championships he is nailed on for a World Championship slot.


The luck of the draw really cost Andy Hamilton in Dublin as he was handed the tough task of a first round clash with Mark Webster, which he couldn’t come through.  His run to the semis at the Matchplay saw him climb to 12th, but he has dropped back down to 17th thanks to his opening round exit in Ireland.


The £20,000 Richie Burnett pocketed for his sensational run to the semi-finals was the biggest pay day the Welshman has had in a long while and has seen him jump five places in the rankings to 36th, past the likes of Tony Eccles and Michael van Gerwen.


Burnett only qualified for the Grand Prix with a surprise win in the Players Championship in Nuland which rocketed him up the Players Championship Order of Merit at the last minute.  The man unlucky to lose his place in Dublin as a result was Colin “Ozzy” Osbourne.  Things got worse for the former Wizard during the tournament as Dennis Ovens’ first round win saw him pick up enough cash to rise two places and knock Ozzy out of the world’s top 20.

Special Mention

Mark Hylton has had a great year and he continued it with a quarter-final appearance in Dublin to match reaching the same stage at the UK Open but due to the success of those around him in the rankings, his £12,500 could not help him improve on his 38th spot.  It is only a matter of time before he enters the top 32 you would think though. 

The undoubteded highlight of the 2011 World  Grand Prix:

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Dolan's Dublin Dreams Don't Die!!! (But it could be a nightmare tonight)

As bad as I feel for dismissing the chances of Brendan Dolan in his semi-final last night, I am confident I was in the overwhelming majority by doing so, and I hope the Northern Irishman takes added pleasure by proving everybody wrong.

By beating James Wade 5-2 yesterday evening, the 38-year-old produced one of the shocks of the year and did so in stylish and record breaking fashion by becoming the first man to hit a nine-darter in the history of the World Grand Prix.

The assured nature of his performance was unbelievable seen as it was his first ever major semi-final, he lost the first set and he wasn’t flustered by a strong sixth set from Wade which he won 3-0.

The £40,000 that he is guaranteed for reaching the final will rocket him from 36th in the world up to 25th, but he won’t be settling for that just yet and will have his sights on the winner’s prize of £100,000 which would take him all the way into the top 16.

In his way, though is a ferociously in form Phil Taylor who saw off Richie Burnett in spectacular fashion, breaking records himself with an average of 103.02, his highest ever in the competition.

The Power lay down a marker in the first set not missing a double to start or finish and although the Welshman won the second and did his best to stay with the world number one, he was always fighting a losing battle.

Burnett will be far from disappointed after the defeat though and will take not just his £20,000 prize money away, but also a renewed confidence in his game and the belief that he can really make an impact at the World Championships.

The Prince of Wales can count himself a bit unlucky that his run to the semis will only advance him four places in the Order of Merit, but it is still progress and he will sit nicely in 37th place when the tournament comes to an end.

The unluckiest man in terms of rankings from the tournament would have to be Mark Hylton who did brilliantly to make the quarter-finals, due to the success of Burnett and Dolan, will not improve on his current ranking of 38.  Very unfortunate.

As far as the final goes, there is no money to be won really.  Taylor is 1/25 with Skybet and you can’t really argue with them.  Whoever had reached the final, with the Power in this form he would have been a huge favourite and I don’t think Dolan will be able to live with him.

Taylor to win 6-2 is available at 10/3 and if I was going for anything, that would be my choice.

These two actually met in the first round of last year’s tournament which Taylor won in very comfortable fashion.  Here he is claiming the second set:

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Midnight draws close for our Cinderella's, watch out for tungsten slippers on the stairs.

Never let it be said that perseverance doesn’t pay off as finally, on quarter-finals night, I picked all four winners at the Grand Prix and feel a bit better about myself after backing a hat full of losers so far in the week.  Admittedly two of the four were all but nailed on, but the other half were second favourites with the bookies and have done incredibly well to reach this stage of the competition.

First up Brendan Dolan showed nerves of steel to come back from a whitewash in the opening set of the night against John Henderson to win 4-1, and as that was in his first major quarter-final, he will now make his debut in a semi-final.  The Northern Irishman has actually come through the tournament relatively unscathed so far, winning every one of his matches by more than one set, and with prize money of at least £20,000 guaranteed he is going to be sitting pretty in the world’s top 32 when the dust has settled after the tournament.  Unfortunately for former world champ Jelle Klaasen, that means he will be dropping out of the select band of players.

James Wade in comparison to Dolan has not had a comfortable run in the competition at all, and Friday night was no exception as Andy Smith gave him a real fight but Wade eventually prevailed 4-2.  It was fine margins that saw the Machine claim the victory, and his 50% on the starting doubles compared to Smith’s 41% certainly made a difference, and despite being 16 years Smith’s junior, Wade’s superior big match experience saw him through.  The Pie Man will still be delighted with his performance this week and if he can keep up this form then he will be a real test for anyone in the World Championships.

Although a heavy favourite going into the contest, the manner of Phil Taylor’s 4-0 win over Mark Webster was still absolutely stunning.  After his troubles over the last 12 months, the Power is coming back to near his best and was absolutely unstoppable against the Welshman.  An average of 101 would win you 99% of matches in a normal match, but in a double-in contest it is unbeatable and it’s a testament to the man that he is still raising the bar as far as performances go.  60% on starting doubles and 52% on finishing, these are stats that no one can live with, as was proved as Webster put in a very decent display, but only picked up three legs.  The Power is fully charged!!

Finally the incredible story of Richie Burnett continued with another nerveless display to beat Mark Hylton 4-1.  Yes he has been at this level before, but not for a very long time and to come out in a major quarter-final after all the troubles he has had and hit 14 out of 23 finishing doubles is quite amazing.  That is where the difference lay in what was a really tight game, but Burnett’s 61% on finishing absolutely dwarfed Hylton’s of 18%, and that is what cost Mile High a place in the semi-finals.

Semi Final Time

Unfortunately I’ve got no well kept secrets or pearls of wisdom that might suggest the two semi-finals are going to end in any other way than the one we all expect.  The bookies have the pair of Taylor and Wade to win at 2/9 and that reflects how heavily they are expected to win.  If you add Taylor and Wade’s world rankings together you get four, if you combine Dolan’s and Burnett’s you come to 77 and that demonstrates the gulf in success over recent times.  

Without seeming too dismissive, I’m just looking forward to what should be another cracking Wade v Taylor final on Sunday night.