There is one tournament before the World Championship and it begins at Butlin’s in Minehead on Friday when the leading 64 players from the pro tour this year compete in the Players Championship Finals.
This tournament sees the best players from the 30 regular Players Championship events qualifying. Peter Wright won the title last year and had qualified to attempt to defend his crown but he has withdrawn for family reasons so we will get a different winner this weekend.
2021 – Peter Wright
2020 – Michael van Gerwen
2019 – Michael van Gerwen
2018 – Daryl Gurney
2017 – Michael van Gerwen
2016 – Michael van Gerwen
2015 – Michael van Gerwen
2014 – Gary Anderson
2013 – Michael van Gerwen
2012 – Phil Taylor
Unlike some events, the 64 man field is seeded by their final position on the Players Championship Order of Merit which gives us a completely different seed list to when the world rankings are used. Number 1 plays number 64 in the first round, 2 vs 63 and so on. The first round takes over the two sessions on Friday and is the best of 11, as is the second round on Saturday afternoon and we then move up to the best of 19 for the last 16 on Saturday evening and the quarter finals on Sunday afternoon. The remainder of the tournament takes place on Sunday evening over the best of 21 legs with the winner taking home a cool £100,000.
That all means that it is Damon Heta who is the top seed this weekend and he will head up the top quarter as a result of that. His singles TV record this year has been very ordinary though so the other seeds in the top 16 that are in this section will fancy their chances of a decent run in the event. They are the world number one Gerwyn Price and Andrew Gilding. Peter Wright would have been the ninth seed but he has withdrawn from his title defence.
There are some very good players who weren’t among the top 16 seeds for this tournament when the final counts were put together who are in this quarter. Former world champion Adrian Lewis was 17 on the rankings for this while the European champion Ross Smith is also in this section. Jonny Clayton is also in this quarter even though he is seeded 24 for the event. Keane Barry, Callan Rydz and Ryan Joyce will be looking for a big weekend.
Dirk van Duijvenbode had an excellent year on the floor to make it through to this tournament as the number four seed which means he is the highest seed in the second quarter. Rob Cross was seeded five and so they are scheduled to meet in the quarter final but the 2021 finalist Ryan Searle is one of the top seeds looking to stop that from happening, while Martin Schindler is the other in what looks like a competitive quarter which might lack a standout runner.
The 2018 champion Daryl Gurney is in this part of the draw as one of the lower seeded players, as are former world champions Stephen Bunting and Gary Anderson. Gabriel Clemens, the 2020 finalist Mervyn King, Jamie Hughes and Keegan Brown are all capable of going big this weekend to boost their World Championship seeding and take some confidence into that tournament with them. Chris Dobey is another danger this week.
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The Grand Slam of Darts semi-finalist Luke Humphries is the top seed in the third quarter this weekend. You get the feeling he is about to go all the way in a TV tournament and he’ll be hoping that is here. Dave Chisnall will hope that isn’t the case as he is seeded to meet him in the quarter final. Krzysztof Ratajski and Joe Cullen are the other two top 16 seeds who are in this quarter who will be out to stop that from happening.
There are some good players lower down the seeding list for this quarter as well with the other losing semi-finalist at the Grand Slam here in Raymond van Barneveld. Kim Huybrechts is also in this section as is the former Grand Slam winner Jose de Sousa. Jim Williams has made it into this tournament as the 31 seed while Scott Williams, Alan Soutar and Rowby-John Rodriguez are just some of the other names to keep an eye on here.
Nathan Aspinall is the highest seed in the bottom quarter. He was the number one seed for much of the year but dropped down to three in the last knockings of it. If the tournament plays out to the seeding then we could have a repeat of the Grand Slam final in the last eight as Michael Smith is slated to face Aspinall. Danny Noppert won the UK Open here earlier in the year and he is also in the top 16 this weekend. Josh Rock is the other leading light here.
This is an absolutely loaded quarter of the draw though because also in it are Michael van Gerwen, Dimitri Van den Bergh and James Wade. If that isn’t enough there are a number of veterans in this quarter in the form of Steve Beaton, Simon Whitlock and Mensur Suljovic not to mention Martin Lukeman who was a finalist in a European Tour event earlier in the year. Ryan Meikle and Martijn Kleermaker will be looking to cause plenty of upsets.
There are three bets which I like the look of this weekend. The main one is Dave Chisnall who has been in excellent form recently. He won a European Tour event two months ago and since then he has won a Players Championship event and made the semi-final of two more and wasn’t far away from coming out of his Grand Slam of Darts group which might well have opened the door for a deep run in that tournament too. Chisnall is in the harder half of the draw but he wouldn’t come up against anyone in that ridiculously tough bottom quarter until the semi-final so I’m not too worried about that. Chisnall has a couple of winnable games in the first two rounds and once we get into the longer format his scoring power can take him far. At 28/1 he’s a big price this week.
The best drawn player in my eyes this weekend is Chris Dobey and I think he is well worth a bet. In Geert Nentjes he looks to have a winnable opening match and then Martin Schindler or Vincent van der Voort isn’t the worst second round opponent and if he can come through that and get into the stage where the format goes up then he could do some damage as well. Dobey was a semi-finalist at the European Championship last month and is another who is knocking on the door of a major title. In a wide open quarter I’ll pay to see how close he goes to delivering the goods this weekend.
I also can’t result a little nibble on Adrian Lewis at a big price. He has an awkward first round match against Keane Barry but the Irishman is in shocking form right now so it might be that the tie isn’t as hard as it looks on paper. The draw could quickly open up if he comes through that because he’s on a collision course with Damon Heta in the last 16 and I’ve mentioned how he does nothing to convince me when he’s on TV in the past. Lewis has won a Players Championship title this season and made the semi-final of two others. He will know this is a big weekend for him because he is currently ranked 33 in the world rankings and he only has this weekend to get into the top 32 else he won’t be seeded at the World Championship so he should be motivated to go well here and I’ll pay to see how well he goes.
Back D.Chisnall to win Players Championship Finals (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with Betfair (1/2 1-2)
Back C.Dobey to win Players Championship Finals (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 51.00 with BetVictor (1/2 1-2)
Back him here:
Back A.Lewis to win Players Championship Finals (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Boylesports (1/2 1-2)
Back him here: