The wait is finally over. The PDC World Championship is finally here! The eagerly anticipated tournament begins at Alexandra Palace in London on Thursday night and does so with arguably the pick of the sessions in the first round of the event.
Both the defending champion Gary Anderson and a serious danger to his title in Peter Wright are in action on what could be a fantastic opening night for the Scots in London.
In all there are four matches on the card and they begin with the preliminary round match between Andy Boulton and Per Laursen. The winner will face Anderson at the end of the night.
These matches used to be the best of seven legs and a bit of a nerve fest really but the standard of them has improved so much in the last year or two that they’ve now been extended to the best of three sets so we will actually get a decent match instead of a nerve ridden clash.
Andy Boulton came through the PDC qualifier to appear in the Grand Slam last month which is comfortably the best form guide either of these two have in recent times. He beat Connie Finnan, Jamie Caven and Stephen Bunting that day.
He nearly did the same thing in the World Championship qualifier where Devon Petersen, Gary Stone and Stuart Kellett were among his victims before a final leg defeat to Ricky Evans meant he plays this prelim game rather than go straight into the first round draw. Despite that defeat his form is plain to see.
Darts players don’t come much more experienced than ‘Peachy’ Per Laursen and the Dane has had a right old year on the Scandinavian circuit where he’s won no fewer than seven titles. Admittedly the standard of that tour isn’t lights out but the likes of Peter Sajwani, Magnus Caris and Daniel Larsson can play so we shouldn’t undermine his achievements.
Laursen missed this tournament last year but last time he was here in 2014 he took care of Terry Jenkins so while Boulton is a worthy favourite here we shouldn’t write the Dane off and this actually should be a good match. Boulton struggled badly as a favourite against Larry Butler in the Grand Slam so that’s a concern for him and his followers.
However the match goes and you’ve got to think it isn’t much more than 50/50 the sheer fact they will have played a competitive match on the stage where they can acclimatise to conditions should give them an early advantage over Anderson later in the night. I don’t expect either to beat the Scot but a set against him can’t be ruled out I would say.
The game of the opening night sees Peter Wright taking on Keegan Brown in what is a serious first round banana skin for the kaleidoscope kid. Unlike the prelim match we’re playing the best of five sets here but this is one draw Wright would not have wanted and while he’s a deserving favourite I’m not sure he’s a genuine 1/3 shot.
Brown has shown in his short career that he is no respecter of reputation. He has taken care of John Part here last year before pushing Adrian Lewis close, he has beaten Robert Thornton at the World Matchplay and twice had good battles with Michael van Gerwen on TV this year so the big stage brings out the best of the youngster.
Wright will need to play well to come through this and purely on experience and that extra class under pressure alone I think the Scot will ultimately prevail but this has all the makings of being a really close match.
I wouldn’t put anyone off taking Brown with a 1.5 set start at odds against but by virtue of the fact the over 16.5 legs could safely win in a four set match I’m going to side with that. I expect at least four sets here and four close sets will see the overs covered. Five sets near enough guarantees the overs and at 5/6 that looks the way to go here.
The other match sees Jamie Lewis taking on Daryl Gurney in a match where both men will fancy their chances of winning. I can see why they would think that too because this looks an even match. Indeed bookmakers are struggling to split them.
I’m siding with the Northern Irishman here though. He comes into the tournament off the back of a good run in the Players Championship Finals where he made the semi-finals taking care of the likes of Kim Huybrechts and Gary Anderson along the way so he must be bouncing right now.
Credit must go to Jamie Lewis for getting himself into a seeded position for this tournament and that illustrates how good a player he is although most of his results have come on the floor and the smaller European Tour events. We’ve never really seen his best of him on TV and in a match where he’s the higher ranked player he could feel the pressure a little bit.
Lewis hasn’t won a match in his two previous attempts in this tournament and that could add to his pressures. Admittedly Raymond Barneveld and James Wade weren’t the easiest draws he could have had but even so. Gurney has got a win under his belt on this stage. He beat Andy Smith in 2013 so he can attack this match without as much pressure which could ultimately be the difference.
Another difference is Gurney’s heavier scoring and while he has the odd shambles on his doubles we regularly see Lewis struggle on the outer ring too so I’ll take the more established and likely to be more relaxed Gurney here.
Back P.Wright vs K.Brown – Over 16.5 legs for a 4/10 stake at 1.83 with William Hill
Back D.Gurney to beat J.Lewis for a 4/10 stake at 2.00 with Boylesports
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