Welcome back to the OpenOdds Darts Round Up – the first to be published in a world in which Peter Wright is PDC World Champion. After the best part of three weeks’ darting at the Alexandra Palace, the Scottish star delivered a performance of some nerve to triumph over bookmakers’ favourite Michael van Gerwen. We’ll have all the details on their confrontation later in this piece. We’ll also take a look at the ongoing BDO Championship, currently taking place at the O2 in front of sparse crowds and minus a few big names.
We’ll also take a preliminary look at the Premier League, due to get underway next month in Aberdeen. We now know the identities of the nine players competing for the title, and all of the invited “challengers” who will make guest appearances at the venues during the first nine weeks of Premier League action. After seeing how 2020 has begun, several of the players in attendance will be hoping they can follow Wright’s example and prevent MvG winning a fifth title in a row when the playoffs take place in May.
BDO finals fail to grab attention
Although the BDO Championships’ status as the “poor relation” to the PDC event is unofficial, and the tournaments are at least theoretically on a par, the pictures coming out of Indigo at the O2 Arena are not encouraging. The event’s credibility took a major blow last week when, due to ticket sales being approximately 15% of the overall availability, organisers wrote to the competitors to advise them that prize money would be substantially downgraded. This precipitated the immediate withdrawal of Fallon Sherrock from the ladies’ event – which had seen its winner’s purse cut to just £8,000.
The action at the oche has taken place in front of sparse crowds, a marked contrast to the buzz at the PDC finals. Another point of difference between the events has been an absence of big shocks – the highest seed to have been eliminated by the last 16 stage has been number 4 Dave Parletti. He and Nick Kenny (6) both lost their last-32 showdowns with Dutch non-seeds Chris Landman and Dennie Olde Kalter respectively. While most bookies are favouring second seed Jim Williams, world number one Wesley Harms is still in the mix, and a price of 8/1 with 888 makes him a tempting bet.
Wright place, Wright time for new world champion
At the outset of the PDC World Darts Championship. Peter Wright was considered a decent dark horse, but at general odds of 14/1 without an odds boost was considered well behind MvG and Gerwyn Price as a contender for the honours. If you backed the Scot against these odds, then you did the right thing, because “Snakebite” took out Price in the semi-finals (after the Welshman’s temper once again got the better of him) before delivering a sensational 7-3 victory over the defending champion in the final. It was very much a case of Wright being livelier with the finishes – he took 24 of his 45 chances at a checkout, with van Gerwen managing 18 from 45 himself.
Among the most impressive aspects of Wright’s win – his first major title in a career spanning 25 years – was the fact that he got ahead of the World #1 and stuck there even when the balance tilted. Having won the first two sets, the Scot was pulled back to 2-2 and, when doubts would have set in for most players, Wright immediately re-established a 4-2 lead. Although van Gerwen again narrowed the gap, his opponent was too good and too decisive, picking off the final three sets. Tournament sponsors William Hill have him priced 7/1 to repeat the achievement in 2021, with MvG 11/8 to regain the title.
Premier League roll call: Two debutants to make their bows
Wright’s victory at Ally Pally will of course have made him a marked man for other players seeking to open up the competition at the top of the game. The first chance many of these players will have to knock him off this new pedestal will come in the Premier League, which begins in just under a month. The nine players competing for the title are: van Gerwen, Wright, Price, Rob Cross, Michael Smith, Daryl Gurney, Gary Anderson, Nathan Aspinall and Glen Durrant. The final two players named will be making their Premier League debut, while Anderson makes his return after missing last year’s campaign through injury.
With Raymond van Barneveld, Mensur Suljovic and James Wade missing out, the 2020 edition is much changed, but retains the format of nine competitors and nine invited guests. The latter group will include Fallon Sherrock, who will appear at the Nottingham event in Week Two to face one of the competitors. Her conqueror at the PDC Championship, Chris Dobey, will also appear at Newcastle in Week Seven. The returning Anderson is interestingly priced at 12/1, while two-time PDC semi-finalist Aspinall – who seems to thrive on the big occasion – is 16/1 with Betway and worth considering.