By Alex Moss
27 MARCH 2017 •3:41PM
The PDC European Tour returned this past weekend with the HappyBet German Darts Championship in Hildesheim, the first of 12 events taking place on the tour in 2017.
Peter Wright continued his fine start to the year by lifting the trophy, beating world number one Michael van Gerwen 6-3 in the final last night.
Our chief darts writer ALEX MOSS picks out five things we learned from the last three days of action in Germany…
1. Peter Wright is developing a winning mentality
What a year Peter Wright is having! Since enjoying a breakthrough run to the final of the 2014 PDC World Championship, the Scot has been battling it out amongst the elite players in the PDC, but with limited success.
Alongside Wright’s run to the final at Alexandra Palace, he also reached the finals of seven other televised tournaments, all of which he lost in, before breaking his TV duck with victory in the UK Open three weeks ago.
After winning his maiden TV title in Minehead, Wright revealed how he had thrown away all of his runners-up trophies from his darts room at his Mendham home and said this year he wanted to replace them with winning ones.
Well, he now has a second title to add to his now spacious trophy cabinet after winning the German Darts Championship on Sunday.
It was Wright’s first win over Michael van Gerwen in a final, another box ticked in what has been a memorable few weeks for the world number three.
Yes, what Wright has achieved in darts over the last three to four years has been remarkable and should be celebrated.
But it now feels like Wright is starting to develop a winning mentality. He is no longer content with taking home the runners-up trophies and, although removing all of his second place prizes may seem to some a step too far, he is certainly not regretting it now. Could he reach double figures for tournament wins in 2017?
2. Gerwyn Price is a force to be reckoned with in the PDC
We may only be in March, but it already looks like Gerwyn Price is going to be the odds on favourite to scoop the Most Improved Player award at next January’s PDC Annual Awards night.
The Welshman reached his first televised final earlier this month at the UK Open, and he backed up that performance with a run to his maiden European Tour semi-final yesterday.
It is well documented how Price ended his rugby career to take up darts at the start of 2014, winning a tour card at Q-School and making steady progress up the ranks in the PDC ever since.
Aside from a run to the quarter-finals of the World Matchplay in 2015, Price had before this year never produced his best darts on the stage. He ended last year mulling over a third first round defeat in three appearances at the PDC World Championship.
But this year we’ve seen Price start to produce the sort of performances which helped him to win back-to-back Players Championship titles on the floor last year.
Price is pushing the top players now and he even had a dart to knock out eventual winner Peter Wright in the semi-finals. Price is certainly one to watch for the rest of the season.
3. Darren Johnson is the surprise package of 2017
He’s beaten five of the top 16 players in the PDC in the last fortnight and now Darren Johnson will be a player everyone will not dare be taking lightly.
The 50-year-old, from Mexborough, has been playing on the PDC circuit since 2004, but few, if any, of his previous achievements will match those of the last two weeks.
Wins over Dave Chisnall, Raymond van Barneveld, Benito van de Pas and Michael van Gerwen saw him reach the final of Players Championship 4 in Barnsley two weeks ago.
And this past weekend Johnson completed a stunning comeback from 5-1 down to beat James Wade 6-5, in the second round of the German Darts Championship.
Johnson only won his tour card back in January at Q-School, but he is already making big strides to try and avoid dropping off the tour again at the end of 2018.
4. Green shoots of recovery for Paul Nicholson
A first round victory on the European Tour stage with a 90.29 average would not have set the heart racing, but for Paul Nicholson and his army of supporters it would have meant a lot.
The 2010 Players Championship Finals winner played his first game on a European Tour stage in almost three years at the weekend, beating Ryan Searle 6-2 before bowing out to Cristo Reyes in the last 32.
Since winning back his tour card at Q-School at the start of the year, Nicholson has showed signs that he is getting back somewhere near to the form he showed on the TV between 2009 and 2012.
Injuries and a loss of form have hampered Nicholson over the last few years, and resulted in him losing his tour card at the end of last year, but 2017 feels like a fresh start for the Asset.
There are still plenty of events to go, but even he will feel he has a chance of qualifying for the World Championship at the end of the season. More appearances on the European Tour, as a player rather than a commentator, will help his cause.
5. Seeded players face added pressure on Saturday
Make no mistake about it, the seeded players who play on the European Tour this year will be feeling more pressure when they play their first games on Saturday afternoon or evening.
A new rule brought in by the PDC this year states that if a seeded player loses their first game (second round) in a European Tour event then the prize money earned from that particular event will not go towards the Order of Merit.
With a record 12 events on the European Tour this season, the top players should not find it difficult to finish in the top 32 of the European Tour Order of Merit and qualify for the European Championship in Belgium.
But, for those seeded players out of form or only deciding to enter a select number of the events, the importance of winning your second round game is now even greater.
James Wade, Michael Smith and Simon Whitlock were the only seeded players to lose out in the second round at the weekend.
Whilst we do expect the three of them to safely qualify for Hasselt, a few more early exits for either of them could trigger some doubts.
And for a player like Wade, who skipped three of the European Tour events last year, a second round exit or two could be the difference between him being able to skip a weekend or having to enter an extra event to make sure of his place in the European Championship.