Welcome back to the OpenOdds Darts Round Up, which this week takes a look at the upcoming Ladbrokes Masters in Milton Keynes. £200,000 and no ranking points are on offer to the winner of the tournament, which is played this weekend and will offer a handy preparation for the Premier League as it gets underway next Thursday. We’ll also check out the news from the PDC’s Q-school, which has bestowed shiny new tour cards on four pros. One of them is a woman and, spoiler alert, it’s not Fallon Sherrock.
We will also be taking a closer look at the Premier League, with defending champion Michael van Gerwen preparing to put his crown on the line. This week, MvG has admitted that some “laziness” has slipped into his game, which may be true, but he could just have admitted that Peter Wright played better and left it at that. The Dutchman is trying out some new darts, and has admitted that he may experience some teething troubles; how might that affect his tilt at the first tournament since his World Championship defeat?
Masters field set to fight it out
If indeed van Gerwen is to have a touch of the yips with his new arrows, he’ll want to get over them quickly. The 16-player field in Milton Keynes is made up of the top players from 2019’s Order of Merit and, although MvG will be huge favourite to defeat Jonny Clayton in the first round, his projected quarter-final opponent is Nathan Aspinall. The Stockport darter, who won the UK Open last year and has made the semis at the Worlds two years running, is very much a player on the rise, and has been announced as a competitor in this year’s Premier League.
The bottom half of the draw is perhaps the more unpredictable. Newly-minted World Champion Wright is in there, opening his competition against Joe Cullen. Gerwyn Price, seeded #2, opens his run against Simon Whitlock, while Daryl Gurney, Gary Anderson and Dave Chisnall could all make it difficult for the favourites. The projected semi-final here would be a repeat of Wright and Price’s World Championship semi, making it a grudge match – even more so than most matches are for Price, who has “beef” with most players on the tour by now. Wright is 6/1 with SportingBet to add the Masters to his trophy cabinet, and might be a smart bet if MvG starts 2020 the way he played much of 2019.
Premier League to be more competitive?
No sooner will the Masters title have been handed out than the bookmakers turn their eyes towards Aberdeen for the first week of the Premier League, and we now know the schedule of fixtures for not only that week, but every week of the first phase. The opener in Scotland gives us a truly titanic clash, too, throwing together triumphant homecomer Peter Wright and the man he toppled at the Ally Pally – van Gerwen. Price, for his part, will be up against last year’s beaten PL finalist Rob Cross, who will be keen to get back to his best after an early exit in London at the end of 2019.
We also know who Fallon Sherrock will face as the first woman to play a Premier League match. The World Championship surprise package will be present in Nottingham in Week Two, and will take on debutant Glen Durrant. The three-time BDO champion and 25/1 outsider with Betway is the only competing player from outside the top eight on the Order of Merit, having received a wild card despite his lower ranking of 22 – but he performed well in major events last season and clearly isn’t just making up the numbers. His meeting with Sherrock will be fascinating, with the latter having just missed out on a card from the recent PDC Q-School.
Speaking of the Q-School…
The PDC Tour has its newest members, and among them are a former two-time BDO Champion (Scott Waites), former runner-up Andy Hamilton and losing semi-finalist Wesley Harms. Also included: Bolton’s Lisa Ashton – the first woman to win a tour card through the Q-School. It’s been a big few months for female darters, with Sherrock picking up a couple of wins at the PDC championship and Mikuru Suzuki going close to joining her before winning the BDO title. Ashton, along with all qualifiers from the School, can now enter Players Championship events without having to pay the £4,300 entry fee – a huge benefit for the player.
Ashton is still an exceptionally long shot to add the PDC World Championship to her four BDO Women’s titles – she’s 500/1 with William Hill – but her exposure to the level of competition on the PDC tour will only be beneficial for her darts. While Sherrock may have missed out on joining her, the Milton Keynes-born star has automatically qualified for five Masters events, so will gain the same competitive benefit from playing among the world’s best.