William Hill World Championship qualifying update: Five international qualifiers now confirmed in the field

Five of the 72 places in the 2018 William Hill World Championship have now been confirmed.

Japan’s Seigo Asada is the latest player to secure his spot in the tournament, which this year will offer a record £1,800,000 prize fund, after winning the PDJ Qualifier.

Asada joins America’s Willard Bruguier, New Zealand’s Cody Harris, Australia’s Gordon Mathers and Finland’s Kim Viljanen as the five players to qualify so far as international qualifiers.

The 72-player field for the Alexandra Palace event will be made up of the top 32 players on the PDC Order of Merit, the next top 16 players on the Pro Tour Order of Merit and 24 players from international qualifiers and the PDPA Qualifier.

2018 William Hill World Darts Championship (Qualified players so far)
Willard Bruguier (North American Darts Championship winner)
Cody Harris (DartsPlayers New Zealand Qualifier)
Gordon Mathers (DPA Pro Tour #1)
Kim Viljanen (PDCNB Order of Merit #1)
Seigo Asada (PDJ Qualifier)

Seigo Asada wins PDJ Japanese Qualifier to secure debut at William Hill World Championship in December

Seigo Asada will make his debut in the William Hill World Championship in December after winning the PDJ Japanese Qualifier.

The 37-year-old, from Osaka, lost out in the semi-finals of last year’s qualifier, but went all the way this time round to secure his first Alexandra Palace appearance.

Asada picked up 4-1 wins over Noriyuki Negishi, Toyokazu Shibata and Shingo Enomata to reach the final, where he saw off the challenge of Yuya Higuchi 5-2 to win the qualifier.

Asada has experience on the big stage having taken on two-time world champion Gary Anderson in the Tokyo Darts Masters last year, and he has also qualified for the BDO World Championship three times.

2017 PDJ Japanese Qualifier
First Round
Toyokazu Shibata 4-3 Hisato Sotoosa
Seigo Asada 4-1 Noriyuki Negishi
Tatsuya Zama 4-1 Katsuya Aiba
Shingo Enomata 4-0 Osamu Niki
Shin Higashida 4-3 Sho Katsumi
Haruki Muramatsu 4-3 Taro Yachi
Keita Ono 4-1 Satoaki Taguchi
Yuya Higuchi 4-2 Kenichi Aijiki

Quarter-Finals
Seigo Asada 4-1 Toyokazu Shibata
Shingo Enomata 4-1 Tatsuya Zama
Haruki Muramatsu 4-2 Shin Higashida
Yuya Higuchi 4-2 Keita Ono

Semi-Finals
Seigo Asada 4-1 Shingo Enomata
Yuya Higuchi 4-2 Haruki Muramatsu

Final
Seigo Asada 5-2 Yuya Higuchi

2015 champion Robert Thornton now relying on Phil Taylor withdrawal to qualify for the World Grand Prix

Robert Thornton faces a nervous wait today to see if he will get a reprieve and a place in next month’s Unibet World Grand Prix – just two years after lifting the major in Dublin.

The 2015 champion sits in 17th place on the PDC Order of Merit following the conclusion of the HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix in Mannheim yesterday.

The European Tour event was the last tournament before the cut off for the World Grand Prix, which takes place on October 1-7, with the field made up of the top 16 players on the Order of Merit as well as the next top 16 players on the Pro Tour Order of Merit.

Thornton’s hopes of qualifying now rest on 11-time World Grand Prix champion Phil Taylor who, if rumours which spread over the weekend are correct, will be skipping the tournament in Ireland in his final year on the professional circuit.

The 32-player field is expected to be finalised by the PDC today, when we will find out if indeed Taylor is missing the World Grand Prix and if Thornton has earned a reprieve into the tournament.

Provisional 2017 World Grand Prix line-up
Top 16 on the PDC Order of Merit
1. Michael van Gerwen
2. Gary Anderson
3. Peter Wright
4. Phil Taylor
5. Adrian Lewis
6. Dave Chisnall
7. Mensur Suljovic
8. Michael Smith
9. Raymond van Barneveld
10. Jelle Klaasen
11. James Wade
12. Daryl Gurney
13. Kim Huybrechts
14. Ian White
15. Benito van de Pas
16. Simon Whitlock

Next Top 16 on the Pro Tour Order of Merit
1. Rob Cross
2. Alan Norris
3. Joe Cullen
4. Mervyn King
5. Gerwyn Price
6. Steve Beaton
7. Kyle Anderson
8. Cristo Reyes
9. Darren Webster
10. Stephen Bunting
11. Christian Kist
12. John Henderson
13. Justin Pipe
14. Steve West
15. Richard North
16. Ronny Huybrechts

Former World Championship finalist Mark Dudbridge finishes second on Challenge Tour Order of Merit to win back tour card

Former World Championship Mark Dudbridge has finished second on this year’s Unicorn Challenge Tour Order of Merit to win back his tour card.

The Bristol thrower, who lost to Phil Taylor in the 2005 World Championship final at the Circus Tavern, lost his tour card at the end of the 2015-16 season.

But the 44-year-old, along with former major finalist Wayne Jones, will return to the Pro Tour in 2018 after securing second spot on the Order of Merit following Event 20 today.

After Jones won Event 19 earlier in the day to guarantee he would finish top on the Order of Merit, it meant only one more tour card was up for grabs going into the final tournament of the season.

Luke Humphries’ 5-3 loss in the semi-finals to Adam Smith-Neale ended his hopes of claiming second place on the final Order of Merit, as he ended the season £800 behind Dudbridge.

Today’s double-header completed the year’s Challenge Tour season, with £200,000 in prize money having been paid out to players on the PDC’s second-tier tour.

Alongside two-year tour cards for Jones and Dudbridge, the players ranked from third to eighth on the final Order of Merit – Humphries, Peter Jacques, Aaron Dyer, Alan Tabern, Mark Frost and Kevin McDine, have earned free entry to Qualifying School in 2018.

Alan Tabern ends three-year trophy drought in Challenge Tour with victory in Event 20 in Wigan

Former Pro Tour winner Alan Tabern brought to an end a three-year trophy drought in the Unicorn Challenge Tour with victory in the final event of the season today.

The 50-year-old, who reached the semi-finals of the 2006 UK Open, as well as three other major quarter-finals, won three Challenge Tour titles back in 2014.

Those triumphs had helped the St Helens thrower to finish second on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit that year and win back his tour card, but he was back at Qualifying School trying to win his tour card back in January this year.

The left-hander overcame Chris Jackson, Radoslaw Szaganski, Michael Dawson and Adam Huckvale to reach the quarter-finals, where he was a 5-3 winner against Barry Lynn.

Tabern then picked up a fifth successive 5-3 triumph as he saw off Brazil World Cup star Diogo Portela in the semi-finals, before repeating the scoreline in the final against Adam Smith-Neale.

Warwickshire’s Smith-Neale, a winner on the Unicorn Development Tour five years ago, enjoyed his best run on the Challenge Tour to reach the final.

The 23-year-old claimed wins over Steve McNally, David Copley, Peter Mitchell, Curtis Hammond, Warrick Scheffer and Luke Humphries as he secured his spot in the decider.

Unicorn Challenge Tour
Event 20
Quarter-Finals
Alan Tabern 5-3 Barry Lynn
Diogo Portela 5-4 Kevin Edwards
Luke Humphries 5-1 Martin Lukeman
Adam Smith-Neale 5-3 Warrick Scheffer

Semi-Finals
Alan Tabern 5-3 Diogo Portela
Adam Smith-Neale 5-3 Luke Humphries

Final
Alan Tabern 5-3 Adam Smith-Neale

Wayne Jones wins back tour card after Event 19 triumph secures top spot on Unicorn Challenge Tour Order of Merit

Former major finalist Wayne Jones has won back his tour card after securing top spot in this year’s Unicorn Challenge Tour Order of Merit today.

The 2010 European Championship runner-up defeated Stuart Kellett in the final of Event 19 this afternoon, which was enough to ensure he finishes top of the Order of the Merit.

Jones, who lost his tour card at the end of last season, had already won two Challenge Tour titles this year, and followed up Saturday’s run to the Event 17 final by picking up the £2,000 first prize in the first of Sunday’s two tournaments.

The Wolverhampton thrower claimed wins over Bradley Brooks, Rohit Rabadia and Brett Claydon, before being taken to a deciding leg by Paul Harvey, Craig Gilchrist and Gary Stone.

Having come through those tight matches, Jones then won the title with a 5-3 triumph against Kellett, the Cheshire ace who was appearing in his first Challenge Tour final.

Kellett had earlier beaten Rachel Brooks, James Hubbard, Edward Lovely, Event 18 winner Nick Fullwell, Paul Phillips and Peter Hudson in his run to the final, as he picked up £1,000 in prize money.

Unicorn Challenge Tour
Event 19
Quarter-Finals
Stuart Kellett 5-2 Paul Phillips
Peter Hudson 5-4 Martin Lukeman
Gary Stone 5-0 Sam Head
Wayne Jones 5-4 Craig Gilchrist

Semi-Finals
Stuart Kellett 5-4 Peter Hudson
Wayne Jones 5-4 Gary Stone

Final
Wayne Jones 5-3 Stuart Kellett

German Darts Grand Prix final day rundown: MVG still faces stiff competition in bid to win fifth Euro Tour title of 2017

The unexpected departures of Peter Wright and Dave Chisnall in the second round yesterday may have left some thinking that this HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix title will find its way into the hands of Michael van Gerwen tonight.

The world number one returned to action after a month’s break last week and stormed to the Dutch Darts Masters crown in Maastricht – his fourh European Tour victory of the season.

Van Gerwen will be the obvious favourite to improve that number to five in Mannheim this evening, but there will be plenty of players standing in his way across the two sessions today aiming to dethrone the top seed.

With world numbers three and six out of the field going into the final day, there are now six players left inside the top 16 who have made it through to the third round.

Third seed Mensur Suljovic (7), fifth seed Michael Smith (9), Jelle Klaasen (11), Daryl Gurney (12), Ian White (14) and Benito van de Pas (15) are all still in the running.

Although you could argue it is the players further down the Order of Merit who could pose the biggest threat to van Gerwen today.

Kyle Anderson, the recent Auckland Darts Masters winner, is in line to face the Dutchman in the quarter-finals and has posted a 100+ average in his last five games on the European Tour.

A possible semi-final opponent for van Gerwen could be Joe Cullen, who put in an outstanding performance yesterday with a 108 average helping him beat debutant Tony Martinez in his first outing of the weekend.

Ronny Huybrechts and Vincent van der Voort lock horns in the third round this afternoon in a match which has more permutations in regards to the Unibet World Grand Prix next month.

Huybrechts, who knocked out second seed Peter Wright last night with some impressive double hitting, is currently in the last spot available on the Pro Tour Order of Merit.

A run to the final for van der Voort, who averaged 101 in his dramatic 6-5 win over Mervyn King yesterday, would bump Huybrechts out of the field for Dublin, with the cut-off falling tomorrow.

We cannot forget the rising star that is Rob Cross, who has raised so many eyebrows so far in his debut year on the Pro Tour in 2017.

Last year’s Challenge Tour Order of Merit winner has a win over van Gerwen on the European Tour recently and is afraid of no one.

He got his latest campaign for a first European Tour title underway yesterday with a 6-3 win over Jan Dekker, which saw him average 103 and hit several big finishes.

Wright and Chisnall may be out of the running now in Mannheim, but that does not mean the destiny of the German Darts Grand Prix has been decided just yet.

Michael Smith aiming to follow up Gibraltar triumph with a fifth career European Tour win tomorrow

Michael Smith has his sights set on a fifth career European Tour win as he heads into the final day of the HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix tomorrow.

The world number nine, who won the Gibraltar Darts Trophy in May, defied seven 180s and a missed match dart from Jamie Lewis before escaping with a 6-5 win from a thriller with the Welsh youngster earlier today.

“My partner was due to give birth a few days ago so I’m waiting for a message that she’s gone into labour!” admitted Smith.

“The only thing I’ve come here for is to win the tournament and I’ve done it four times before, so I don’t see why I can’t make it a fifth tomorrow.”

Smith now plays Joe Cullen, who produced a hugely impressive 108.30 average and hit four 180s and half of his darts at a double in a superb 6-3 win over Tony Martinez, the Belgian debutant who had won through to the second round.

Benito van de Pas was also in a clinical mood as he overcame Jamie Caven 6-3, finishing 6/9 on his doubles after opening the game with a 104 checkout to set up a tie with Darren Webster, who knocked out seeded Alan Norris 6-3.

World number 99 Nathan Aspinall also finished six doubles from nine attempts as he defeated sixth ranked Dave Chisnall 6-2.

Aspinall now meets former European Championship winner Simon Whitlock, who was a 6-2 victor against Sweden’s Daniel Larsson to begin his bid to claim a second European Tour title.

Ronny Huybrechts hits six from eight doubles to stun second seed Peter Wright in HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix last 32

Ronny Huybrechts produced a stunning display of double hitting to knock out second seed Peter Wright 6-2 in the last 32 of the HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix this evening.

The Belgian hit six out of his eight attempts at doubles as he ended the world number three’s bid to win a fifth European Tour title of the season.

For Huybrechts it keeps alive his hopes of qualifying for next month’s Unibet World Grand Prix, as the world number 44 set up a third-round clash with Vincent van der Voort, who also has his eyes on snatching a Dublin spot before Monday’s cut off.

The Dutchman was a 6-5 winner in a dramatic clash with Mervyn King, averaging 101 as he hit back from 5-2 down before surviving three missed match darts from his rival in the deciding leg.

Sixth seed Daryl Gurney took out six doubles from his 10 attempts as he averaged 98 in a strong 6-1 win over former world youth champion Keegan Brown.

The recent US Darts Masters finalist now plays Ian White, who defied ton-plus finishes of 104, 105 and 156 from Jermaine Wattimena before sealing a 6-4 victory over the Dutchman with a 120 checkout this afternoon.

Third seed Mensur Suljovic – who became a father for a second time last month to daughter Ema – swept past Irish ace Mick McGowan with a 6-1 victory and now takes on 2017 shooting star Rob Cross in the last 16 tomorrow.

Cross impressed once again by averaging 104 and taking out finishes of 150, 112 and 104 among 6/8 on his doubles to defeat Jan Dekker 6-3.

Michael van Gerwen whitewashes Richard North with a 111 average in HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix second round

Michael van Gerwen took just nine minutes to whitewash Richard North with a 111 average in the second round of the HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix this evening.

The world number one had marked his return to action following a month’s break for the birth of his daughter by winning last weekend’s Dutch Darts Masters in Maastricht, and the top seed laid down a marker in Mannheim with a 6-0 win over the qualifier.

Van Gerwen began his bid to win a fifth European Tour title of 2017 in ruthless fashion, winning six straight legs in 13, 14, 15, 15, 13 and 11 darts to set up a third-round clash with Gerwyn Price tomorrow.

“It’s been a great last month and I’m really enjoying myself and you could see that in my game last week,” the top seed said.

“I played really well in Maastricht and I hope I can continue the good form.

“I’ve got the spirit and good motivation at the moment. You always need to be critical of yourself – I had two legs where I had some 57s and 59s, but for the rest I’m doing quite well and that’s what I like to do.”

Welshman Price was a 6-3 winner against leading Polish ace Krzysztof Ratajski, who led 3-2 only for missed doubles in two successive legs to allow the UK Open finalist to start a run of four straight legs as he swept to victory in the afternoon.

Auckland Darts Masters champion Kyle Anderson posted his fifth successive average of over 100 on the European Tour with a brilliant display to defeat eighth seed Kim Huybrechts.

The Australian twice hit six perfect darts as he hit back from an early 2-1 deficit to land seven maximums and end with a 102.17 average – despite missing 15 darts at doubles.

Anderson now takes on ninth seed Jelle Klaasen in the last 16 tomorrow, with the former BDO world champion enjoying a 6-4 win over Scottish qualifier Jamie Bain in their second-round tie earlier in the day.

Bain, who had knocked out Dutch Darts Masters finalist Steve Beaton in the first round yesterday, hit back from 2-0 down to lead 3-2, but Klaasen dominated the second half of the game to progress.