The final tournament before the PDC World Championship begins next month takes place this weekend when the 64 leading players on the Players Championship circuit head to Butlins in Minehead for the Players Championship Finals.
Michael van Gerwen warmed up for what would ultimately be a defeat in the World Championship final by winning this tournament 12 months ago and he is back in the field this year to attempt to make a successful defence of the title.
2022 – Michael van Gerwen
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
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 £120,000.
Gerwyn Price was the top player on the Players Championship scene this year and he is the number one seed this weekend as a result of that and at the top of the top quarter of the draw. He is seeded to face off against the former European champion Ross Smith in the quarter final but two other players ranked in the top 16 seeds in this tournament would have been out to stop that from happening but one of them, Danny Noppert, has pulled out due to the impending birth of his child. That leaves Stephen Bunting as the other top 16 seed in this section.
There are plenty of decent names who didn’t finish in the top 16 of the Order of Merit for this tournament on show and the pick of those is the defending champion Michael van Gerwen, who is only seeded at 40 this weekend although he didn’t play all of the qualifying events. Gian van Veen is seeded 17 and this is a big weekend for him with him also competing in the World Youth Championship final on Sunday evening. Callan Rydz, Ricky Evans, Kim Huybrechts, Martin Schindler and Mike De Decker will be hoping for big weekends before the World Championship.
Dave Chisnall has been a real feature on both the Players Championship and European Tour circuits this season and he is the highest seed in the second quarter at number four. He is on a collision course with the Grand Slam of Darts quarter finalist Josh Rock in the quarter final but there are a couple of tasty looking top 16 seeds looking to stop that from happening. Rob Cross was the beaten finalist here last year and he’s in this quarter, as is Jonny Clayton.
There are no shortage of big names outside the top 16 here too. Chris Dobey won The Masters at the beginning of the year and he is here although he faces Raymond van Barneveld in a blockbuster first round match. Daryl Gurney is another big name in this quarter, while Gabriel Clemens was a semi-finalist at the World Championship right at the start of 2023. Simon Whitlock, Connor Scutt and Luke Woodhouse will be looking for a decent spin this weekend.
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Gary Anderson has had a brilliant 2023 on the floor and he has been rewarded with the number two seed this weekend and he is the top seed in the third quarter as a result of that. If everything goes to the numbers then he will face off against the World Grand Prix and Grand Slam of Darts champion Luke Humphries in the quarter final. James Wade is one of the top 16 players out to stop that from happening while Ryan Searle is the other one.
This is another quarter with some big names in it among the lower seeds. Andrew Gilding is looking for a Minehead double in 2023 having won the UK Open here earlier in the year, while Dimitri Van den Bergh will look for a big run having missed the Grand Slam last week. Ricardo Pietreczko won the last European Tour event and he’ll hope for a big run as will former BDO world finalists Jim Williams and Christian Kist. Ian White will look to boost his form ahead of the World Championship.
Grand Slam quarter finalist Damon Heta is the third seed in the draw this week and he will head up the bottom quarter of the bracket. He is on a collision course with the Dutch player Dirk van Duijvenbode in the quarter final although the Dutchman comes into the event carrying an injury. The two other top 16 qualifiers in this quarter are Ryan Joyce and the winner of a European Tour event earlier in the year in Krzysztof Ratajski.
The world champion Michael Smith is among the lower seeded players in the bottom half of the draw.Joe Cullen and Jose de Sousa have both won TV events and will be looking to go well here while the Dutch pair of Richard Veenstra and Jermaine Wattimena will be hoping to make a big impression on the tournament. Brendan Dolan and Jamie Hughes have been around the block and will hope for a pre-World Championship boost this weekend.
I’ll go with a couple of bets this weekend with the first of those being the man who lost out in the final of the Grand Slam of Darts last week in Rob Cross. He went one short in that tournament but I wonder if the fact he had to play Saturday night, Sunday afternoon and Sunday evening caught up with him. Everyone plays in the same sessions in the latter stages of this event so there will be no disadvantage for Cross here. Up until the final of the Grand Slam, Cross looked in exceptional form and having made the final here last year we know weekends like this are manageable for him. He has been talking about winning a TV title for a while and with the draw here always opening up this could be his weekend.
If you take Michael Smith out of the bottom quarter it looks very open with Dirk van Duijvenbode injured to the point that last week at the Grand Slam he couldn’t even reach the T20 with his darts. That can’t be good for him and Smith hasn’t really done much since changing his darts so it could all open up for Joe Cullen to come through. Cullen missed the Grand Slam last week so that might have fired him up for a big weekend here. Cullen has been to the quarter final of this event in two of the last three years, going down in a deciding leg to Gerwyn Price in 2020 and then to Luke Humphries last year but he knows how to navigate the early rounds and in a wide open quarter his best effort yet could come this week.
Back R.Cross to win Players Championship Finals (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 21.00 with Unibet (1/2 1-2)
Back J.Cullen to win Players Championship Finals (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 41.00 with William Hill (1/2 1-2)
Back him here: