The PDC Home Tour goes around the world on Thursday night as Group 14 of the competition is played out, with once again four men battling it out from their own environments for our entertainment and looking to progress to a next stage of the event.
We head away from Europe for the first time in the tournament in this group, with Hong Kong one of the destinations for a night of darts that contains two of the better youngsters in the game and two men who are hoping to propel themselves into the limelight when the tour resumes.
Each night four players will battle it out in a round robin format with the group winner progressing to the next stage of the tournament. All six matches in each group will be the best of nine legs with two points awarded for a win. If players finish level on points then leg difference will decide the outcome. If that cannot separate players then the head to head will settle the group winner. Were three players to be tied on points and leg difference the player with the highest overall average goes through. The entire tournament is being streamed live on PDC.tv, the Sky Sports App and various bookmaker sites.
It was another night of shocks in the PDC Home Tour on Wednesday night as the rank outsider of the four, Carl Wilkinson, won all three of his matches to triumph with a fair bit in hand. He was the only player who was able to win two matches let alone three, with Steve Beaton, Callan Rydz and Matt Edgar all registering a solitary win each. Although there are doubts over how seriously some players took it, Wilkinson played excellent all night and deserved his win.
Unfortunately for us it took Callan Rydz far too long to settle. We had him to beat Steve Beaton in the opening match of the night but he was terrible in the game and his win could only come in a dead rubber for him at the end which was disappointing. That gives us something to make up for as we head towards the halfway mark in the competition.
Group 14 Line Up
The highest ranked player in this group and the one with the biggest advantage of all is Chris Dobey. I say that as not only does he have the experience of some of the best stages in the game, but he has also competed from his own home in one of the test events the PDC put on ahead of this tournament. We’ve seen that be a significant advantage throughout this competition with Jelle Klaasen and Nathan Aspinall among those who have already won their section having previously tested out the format. Dobey will be expected to dominate the night.
Ron Meulenkamp has been around the block a bit in this sport and he will be out to preserve the strong tradition the Dutch have put up in the early stages of this tournament. Already we’ve seen the likes of Jelle Klaasen, Martijn Kleermaker and Geert Nentjes win their groups and Meulenkamp will be looking to join them. The left-hander is what I call a steady eddie who is hard to beat but does little out of the ordinary. Whether that is enough to shine here remains to be seen. Two wins in eight Players Championship tournaments is not great form to be carrying with him.
The first player from outside of Europe to contend in one of these events is the PDC newcomer in terms of holding a Tour card in Kai Fan Leung, who broke the heart of Lisa Ashton to get his Tour card, although the Lancashire Rose eventually got hers anyway. We’ve seen the man from Hong Kong before at the World Championship and World Cup and already since he has had his card he has made the last 32 of one Players Championship, beating Jonny Clayton with a 100+ average, and the last 16 of another with a 100+ average against Devon Petersen. When he is over here for the tour he is a practice partner of Stephen Bunting so he should not be underestimated.
The final man in this group is the Irish youngster Ciaran Teehan, who many will have seen for the first time at Alexandra Palace in December when he beat Ross Smith before losing to Mervyn King in an extended final set in the second round. This is his first year on Tour, earning his card via the Challenge Tour where he won a tournament last year, and already he has made the last 32 of three of the eight Players Championship tournaments. If the youngster nails his doubles here he could be dangerous.
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As you would expect Chris Dobey is an odds on favourite to win this group and by virtue of the fact he has already played in one of the test events for this format, and that he is comfortably the highest ranked player in the group, that position is perfectly justified but there is something hiding somewhere that makes me think he might not have things all his own way here. That said I’m in no massive rush to take him on.
If I was going to take ‘Hollywood’ on then I’d probably do it with Ron Meulenkamp who is a steady sort who doesn’t do a lot wrong but his form is a concern. Ciaran Teehan is extremely talented but he plays Dobey in the opening game of the night and you would think the Geordie would have a bit of an advantage there. If this was all in England then I’d have no hesitation taking Kai Fan Leung, a man who has made great strides since getting his card but I can’t be backing anyone throwing arrers at 3-5am where he is. I’ll sit the group betting out.
I will look to take advantage of the time gap where Kai Fan Leung is concerned though and take Ron Meulenkamp to beat him. Let us be honest, the Hong Kong thrower could be anything. He’s just got his card so consistency isn’t his strong point even in level playing field conditions but while I’m sure he’ll pace himself accordingly, nobody can be at their best at 3am so he simply has to be taken on in my eyes.
I’m not suggesting that Ron Meulenkamp is anything special. He clearly isn’t, but 9pm is a much more natural time to be throwing darts than 3am and for all the Dutchman lacks, experience isn’t one of them. He might not generate the 180s as regularly as some but he scores well and he’ll hold his nerve when it comes to the finishing as well. Importantly the Dutch ace has the throw here too so Leung will have to break at some point to win. I’m not convinced the playing conditions are level enough to have this as a 50:50 encounter, especially knowing Meulenkamp throws first. The Dutchman has to be the best for me.
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