By Alex Moss
3 JANUARY 2017 • 11:15PM
Newly crowned world champion Michael van Gerwen will begin his defence of the Unibet Masters title against Simon Whitlock at Arena:MK later this month.
World number one van Gerwen kicked off 2017 in style last night by winning the William Hill World Darts Championship for the second time, beating defending champion Gary Anderson 7-3 in the final at Alexandra Palace.
The Dutchman won an unprecedented 26 tournaments on the PDC circuit in the 2016-17 season, and he begins the defence of the first of those trophies in the Masters on January 27-29.
The first event of the 2017-18 season features the top 16 players on the PDC Order of Merit, with van Gerwen aiming for a third straight success in the invitational event.
Van Gerwen is up against former European Championship winner Simon Whitlock in the first round, while World Championship runner-up Anderson, second on the PDC Order of Merit, will take on Benito van de Pas in their opener, just weeks after the Scot claimed victory the Dutchman on the Alexandra Palace stage.
Another rematch from the World Championship sees third seed Peter Wright taking on Ian White, with Snakebite overcoming the Stoke thrower during his run to the semi-finals.
Two-time world champion Adrian Lewis will meet Belgium’s Kim Huybrechts in a repeat of last year’s first round games, while 2014 Masters champion James Wade faces former World Grand Prix champion Robert Thornton.
Elsewhere, inaugural Masters champion Phil Taylor takes on 11th seed Michael Smith, last year’s Masters runner-up Dave Chisnall meets 2015 Masters finalist Raymond van Barneveld, and Mensur Suljovic makes his debut in the tournament when he faces Jelle Klaasen.
2017 Unibet Masters
First Round Draw & Tournament Bracket
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Simon Whitlock (16)
Mensur Suljovic (8) v Jelle Klaasen (9)
Adrian Lewis (4) v Kim Huybrechts (13)
James Wade (5) v Robert Thornton (12)
Gary Anderson (2) v Benito van de Pas (15)
Dave Chisnall (7) v Raymond van Barneveld (10)
Peter Wright (3) v Ian White (14)
Phil Taylor (6) v Michael Smith (11)
Schedule of Play
Friday January 27 (7pm-11pm)
4x First Round
Saturday January 28 (7pm-11pm)
4x First Round
Sunday January 29
Afternoon Session (12.45pm-5pm)
Evening Session (7pm-11pm)
Semi-Finals & Final
First Round – Best of 19 legs
Quarter-Finals – Best of 19 legs
Semi-Finals – Best of 21 legs
Final – Best of 21 legs
Winner – £60,000
Runner-Up – £25,000
Semi-Finalists – £17,500
Quarter-Finalists – £10,000
First Round Losers – £5,000
Total – £200,000