Reigning champion Michael van Gerwen will lead one of the most competitive PDC World Darts Championship fields to London’s Alexandra Palace over the Christmas and New Year period, but does not enter as the favourite with the bookmakers.
The number one seed is second favourite at the very respectable price of 3/1 (Winner), only to 16-time world champion, Phil Taylor, who famously beat the Dutchman in a thrilling final two years ago at the Ally Pally to set up what has become the sport’s latest rivalry for supremacy.
2/1 Taylor – with Sky Bet – is in enviable form in a year that has seen him win both the World Matchplay and Grand Slam of Darts crowns, including a televised nine-dart finish in the former against Michael Smith of whom he fell foul to sensationally in last year’s World Championships.
‘The Power’ will still have to be wary of van Gerwen however, ‘Mighty Mike’ having grabbed the World Grand Prix and European Championships this year to add to his dream maiden World title in January, despite also sustaining a shock recent early exit from the Players Championship finals to Terry Jenkins and a Grand Slam thrashing by Kim Huybrechts.
Both have been handed a tough opening tie each this December, van Gerwen opening against Joe Cullen who beat him when they last met at the Players Championship in Dublin last October, while Taylor takes on German Jyhan Artut on day two.
Who can topple the top two?
The winner of the most recent Players Championship will be one of many hot contenders to spoil the party for the two favourites. That man was Gary Anderson, showing a vast improvement on his double hitting that lead to a win over Adrian Lewis that never looked in doubt.
The Flying Scotsman, who reached the final of the World Championships four years ago only to lose out in an epic against Lewis ironically, moved himself up to fourth in the seedings and third in the bookmakers at 7/1 with Betfred, and should cruise past either Mark McGrath or Scott Kirchner in the opening round.
One of the fancied bets to place however should be the rejuvinated James Wade, the ‘Machine’ a 16/1 shot with Paddy Power, which is big value for potential.
Wade pegged back Mervyn King from certain defeat to win the Unibet Masters crown in early November, and has looked much more refined after being excused from the strenuous Premier League earlier this year to regain the focus that has seen him reach the semi-finals of the World Championships three times (2009, 2012, 2013).
It does now appear, this could be Wade’s best shot at the title so far.
Tough Opening Rounds For Former Champs
Former triple World champion John Part arguably faces the most difficult draw of the big guns from round one, taking on 2014 World Youth Champion Keegan Brown, who stunned Raymond van Barneveld in the Grand Slam of Darts.
‘Barney’ himself has also been handed a tricky tie against Rowby-John Rodriguez, one of 24 debutants in the first-round draw, Barneveld a handsome 40/1 shot (Coral) for a sixth World title after a superb Premier League success in 2014.
Last year’s runner-up, Peter Wright, has been drawn against debutant Gerwyn Price, while former Lakeside champions Jelle Klaasen and fellow Dutchman Christian Kist set up arguably the best tie of the opening round.
Reigning BDO champion Stephen Bunting meanwhile will make his Alexandra Palace bow against Jermaine Wattimena and Robert Marijanovic, his switch to the PDC seemingly effortless as he has already taken scalps such as Taylor on TV tournaments in 2014.
‘Jackpot’ Adrian Lewis will hope to clinch just that with a third World title having endured a mixed year, while Dave Chisnall has now emerged as a major title threat after challenging Taylor all the way in this year’s Grand Slam final.
The year has already seen copious nine-dart finishes throughout the televised tournaments, Taylor’s perfect nine at the Winter Gardens since followed by similar splices of history for Wade and Robert Thornton in their Grand Prix clash, then by Kim Huybrechts against van Gerwen in the Grand Slam of Darts.
Last year saw both Jenkins and Kyle Anderson achieve the feat at the Ally Pally, prior to that van Gerwen infamously almost hitting back-to-back nine darters in the semi-finals two years ago.
PDC World Darts Championship Betting Tips:
Phil Taylor to win – 2/1 (Sky Bet)
Taylor v van Gerwen final – 7/2 (Winner)
James Wade to win – 16/1 (Paddy Power)
One nine-dart finish – 13/8 (Boylesports)
John Part to beat Keegan Brown – 15/8 (BetVictor)
Mensur Suljovic to beat Michael Smith – 3/1 (Bet365)
Sky Sports are bringing Darts fans the perfect Christmas present over the festive period, introducing Sky Sports Darts on channel 404 which will be dedicated 24/7 to the sport, while showing every match live during this year’s World Championships between 18 December and 8 January.
First round draw:
John Part (30) v Keegan Brown
Jelle Klaasen (29) v Christian Kist
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Joe Cullen
Wes Newton (13) v Christian Perez/Cristo Reyes
Andy Hamilton (12) v Dave Richardson
Peter Wright (5) v Gerwyn Price
Phil Taylor (2) v Jyhan Artut
Stuart Kellett (32) v Kim Viljanen/Sascha Stein
Andy Smith (28) v Ronny Huybrechts
Justin Pipe (17) v Lawrence Ryder
Robert Thornton (9) v Andrew Gilding
Ronnie Baxter (24) v Scott Mackenzie/Daryl Gurney
Steve Beaton (21) v Kyle Anderson
Terry Jenkins (16) v John Weber
Simon Whitlock (7) v Darren Webster
Gary Anderson (4) v Mark McGrath/Scott Kirchner
Paul Nicholson (25) v Benito van de Pas
Mark Webster (31) v Ron Meulenkamp
Dean Winstanley (26) v Wayne Jones
Kevin Painter (20) v Boris Koltsov/Haruki Muramatsu
Kim Huybrechts (18) v Michael Mansell
Dave Chisnall (8) v Ryan De Vreede
James Wade (6) v Jamie Lewis
Ian White (15) v Jani Haavisto/John Michael
Jamie Caven (19) v Jason Hogg
Michael Smith (22) v Mensur Suljovic
Raymond van Barneveld (14) v Rowby-John Rodriguez
Brendan Dolan (11) v Nolan Arendse/Alex Hon
Vincent van der Voort (23) v John Henderson
Mervyn King (10) v Max Hopp
Adrian Lewis (3) v David Pallett
Stephen Bunting (27) v Jermaine Wattimena/Robert Marijanovic