Perth Darts Masters 2017 Photos

Check out photos from the 2017 TABtouch Perth Darts Masters held at the HBF Stadium in Perth, Australia last weekend. Gary Anderson captured his fifth World Series title, and first in Australia, after beating Raymond van Barneveld 11-7 in the final on Sunday. Photos are courtesy of Emma Morley and Craig Stevens DPA/PDC.

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2017 Red Dragon Champion of Champions Updates

Follow live updates from the finals of the 2017 Red Dragon Champion of Champions at St. David’s Hall in Cardiff.

Play starts at 1pm this afternoon with 256 players battling it out for a slice of the £20,000 prize fund for grabs.

PDC tour card holders Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton are among the previous winners of the event, with Clayton back this year to defend the title he won 12 months ago.

Each player has won through a qualifier to reach today’s finals, with each match the best of three legs for the duration of the tournament.

2017 Red Dragon Champion of Champions Finals
Last 256
Adam Smith beat Carl Bruton
Nathan Mallett lost to Craig Venman
Ray Hardwick lost to Shaun Dibbs
Peter Wilcox los to Andrew Perkins
Rhys Palmer 2-1 Josh Jenkins
Andrew Davies lost to James Richards
Chris Manning lost to Aled Goode
Luke Johnson lost to Carl Hamilton
Jon Worsley lost to Steve Smith
Jake Dodgson lost to David Rogers
Andy Aspinall beat Steve Perry
Andrew Poole lost to Michael Taylor
Richard Langlois beat Gavin Sterio
Chris Pearce beat Joe Griffiths
Loz Barnes beat Aaron Bradley
Simon Delaney lost to Ashok Sehdev
Dai Randall beat Kevin Judge
Josh Lewis beat Lee Evans
Chris Austin-Hill lost to Ian Withers
Emyr Jones beat Dennis Smith
Sean Fisher lost to Phil Gooch
Aaron Dyer beat Sarren Burdett
Anthony Freeman beat Jack Fuller
Simon Furness beat Taylor Smoldon
Ian Lovergrove lost to Ben Davies-German
Dave Matthew lost to Ryan Hassell
Mark Lawrence beat Justin Nicholl
James Carroll lost to Sam Guest
John Davey beat John Herlihy
Chris Rees beat Anthony McDonald
Robert Williams lost to Craig Davies
Pat Smith lost to Lloyd Browning
Josh Davies beat Steve Shadwell
Mitch Butler beat Craig Latham
Josh Lloyd beat Simon Hartley
Darren Layden beat Andrew Smith
James Williams beat Luke Hayman
Clive Langford lost to Jordan Thomas
Kevin Thomas beat Alex Hughes
Peter Jacques beat Ian Matthews
Mike Beard beat Paddy Murphy
Mark Blandford beat Dean Cundy
Aaron Stevens lost to Garreg Thomas
Stephen Challenger lost to Andy Hughes
Rob Owen beat Neil Parsonage
Iwan Morgan beat Carl Lewis
Jeff Marshall lost to Trevor Burkhill
Paul Self beat Wayne Hewins
Sean Barnett beat Alan Reynolds
James Hughes beat Peter Watkins
Graham Brooks lost to Graham Usher
Robert Vaughan beat Steven Gillam
Johnny Haines beat Mark Lavers
Tony Bradley beat Rhys Jones
Lee Harris beat Jaimie Boyes
Danny May beat Carl Lloyd
Kevin Jeffreys beat Ben Chance
Brian Dawson lost to Paul Eves
Mark Wilson beat David Lewis
Carl Wilkinson beat Jeff Bass
Ben Farr beat Mike Harries
Bradley Meredith lost to Craig Gilchrist
Terry Temple beat Lee Rodmell
Paul Hogan beat Rob Warman
Gavin Bufton beat Ben Cloake
Mark Salmon beat David Copley
Roy Morris beat Andy McCracken
Barry Hamer beat Richard Hosey
Craig Lewis beat Chris Jones
John Gallagher beat Steve Evans
Justin Smith lost to Jon Clarke
Tom Evans lost to Tom Dimond
Aaron Williams lost to Paul Coray
Martyn Moore beat Nathan Treadgold
Stephen Cake beat Peter Aleman
Jason Williams beat Darren Bennett
Andy White beat Stu Alner
Alex Clyburn beat Shane House
Jason Drage lost to Lee Wreford
Chris Lacy beat Ewan Johnson
Ryan Rawlinson beat David Neads
Tony Lincoln beat Darren Johnson
Ben Bevan beat Paul Green
Ian Williams lost to Leighton Jones
Mike Rees beat Geoff Whybrow
Jason Ettridge lost to Robert Hawker
Marshall James lost to Tim Jones
Scott Bishop lost to Chris Harris
Robert Hughes beat John Murphy
Nathan Perry beat Dale Hughes
Lee Hughes beat Darren Evans
Chris Davies beat Matthew Smith
Danny Dyer lost to Matthew Edgar
Brian Lewis lost to Peter Evans
Ray James lost to Michael Huntley
Alec Small lost to Andy Kerry
Ritchie Edhouse lost to Kieran Harris
David John beat Wayne Warren
Dan Raby beat Keith Aldridge
Brian Wonnacott lost to Mark Rice
Adam Smith-Neale beat Barrie Bates
Jason Lovett lost to Stuart Davies
Ash Richards lost to Adrian Rees
Daniel Thomas lost to Tony Darlow
James Bevan 2-0 Dai Powell
Terry Diamond beat Bryan Cook
Brian Flew beat Lyndon Gore
Jonny Clayton 2-0 Jeff Thomas
Marcus Hawkins beat Paul Rumph
Ralph Barnett beat Mike Fleet
Adrian Jones beat Tommy Livingstone
AJ Urmston-Toft beat Andy Tee
Stephen Davidson 0-2 Dai Caller
Steve Brown lost to Mark Layton
Sean Lewis lost to Michael Rowlands
Craig Draper lost to Stephen Carrett
Ricky Tonkin lost to Dilwyn Martin
Joe Price lost to Lee Bowen
Clive Wilford lost to Mark Penny
Patrick Aldoescu beat James Richardson
Matthew Hannaford 2-0 Robert Benns
Antony Allen lost to Darren Beveridge
Kevin Holvey beat Ben Evans
Jarrod Powell 0-2 Stuart Barrowcliffe
Adam Wardell beat Peter Loft
Chris Smart 2-1 Ryan Palmer
Richie Boucher beat Scott Varley
Kacey Jones lost to Gary Lloyd

Last 128
Adam Smith beat Craig Venman
Shaun Dibbs beat Andrew Perkins
Rhys Palmer lost to James Richards
Aled Goode beat Carl Hamilton
Steve Smith lost to David Rogers
Andy Aspinall beat Michael Taylor
Richard Langlois lost to Chris Pearce
Loz Barnes lost to Ashok Sehdev
Dai Randall lost to Josh Lewis
Ian Withers lost to Emyr Jones
Phil Gooch 2-0 Aaron Dyer
Anthony Freeman beat Simon Furness
Ben Davies-German lost to Ryan Hassell
Mark Lawrence beat Sam Guest
John Davey beat Chris Rees
Craig Davies lost to Lloyd Browning
Josh Davies beat Mitch Butler
Josh Lloyd lost to Darren Layden
James Williams lost to Jordan Thomas
Kevin Thomas beat Peter Jacques
Mike Beard beat Mark Blandford
Garreg Thomas lost to Andy Hughes
Rob Owen beat Iwan Morgan
Trevor Burkhill lost to Paul Self
Sean Barnett lost to James Hughes
Graham Usher beat Robert Vaughan
Johnny Haines beat Tony Bradley
Lee Harris beat Danny May
Kevin Jeffreys lost to Paul Eves
Mark Wilson lost to Carl Wilkinson
Ben Farr lost to Craig Gilchrist
Terry Temple lost to Paul Hogan
Gavin Bufton beat Mark Salmon
Roy Morris lost to Barry Hamer
Craig Lewis beat John Gallagher
Jon Clarke beat Tom Dimond
Paul Coray beat Martyn Moore
Stephen Cake beat Jason Williams
Andy White beat Alex Clyburn
Lee Wreford lost to Chris Lacy
Ryan Rawlinson lost to Tony Lincoln
Ben Bevan lost to Leighton Jones
Mike Rees lost to Robert Hawker
Tim Jones lost to Chris Harris
Robert Hughes beat Nathan Perry
Lee Hughes beat Chris Davies
Matthew Edgar beat Peter Evans
Michael Huntley beat Andy Kerry
Kieran Harris beat David John
Dan Raby lost to Mark Rice
Adam Smith-Neale lost to Stuart Davies
Adrian Rees lost to Tony Darlow
James Bevan beat Terry Diamond
Brian Flew lost to Jonny Clayton
Marcus Hawkins lost to Ralph Barnett
Adrian Jones lost to AJ Urmston-Toft
Dai Caller lost to Mark Layton
Michael Rowlands lost to Stephen Carrett
Dilwyn Martin lost to Lee Bowen
Mark Penny beat Patrick Aldoescu
Matthew Hannaford lost to Darren Beveridge
Kevin Holvey lost to Stuart Barrowcliffe
Adam Wardell lost to Chris Smart
Richie Boucher beat Gary Lloyd

Last 64
Adam Smith lost to Shaun Dibbs
James Richards lost to Aled Goode
David Rogers 2-1 Andy Aspinall
Chris Pearce beat Ashok Sehdev
Josh Lewis beat Emyr Jones
Phil Gooch lost to Anthony Freeman
Ryan Hassell lost to Mark Lawrence
John Davey lost to Lloyd Browning
Josh Davies lost to Darren Layden
Jordan Thomas lost to Kevin Thomas
Mike Beard beat Andy Hughes
Rob Owen beat Paul Self
James Hughes lost to Graham Usher
Johnny Haines beat Lee Harris
Paul Eves lost to Carl Wilkinson
Craig Gilchrist lost to Paul Hogan
Gavin Bufton lost to Barry Hamer
Craig Lewis beat Jon Clarke
Paul Coray lost to Stephen Cake
Andy White lost to Chris Lacy
Tony Lincoln lost to Leighton Jones
Robert Hawker beat Chris Harris
Robert Hughes lost to Lee Hughes
Matthew Edgar beat Andy Kerry
Kieran Harris lost to Mark Rice
Stuart Davies lost to Tony Darlow
James Bevan lost to Jonny Clayton
Ralph Barnett lost to AJ Urmston-Toft
Mark Layton beat Stephen Carrett
Lee Owen lost to Mark Penny
Darren Beveridge lost to Stuart Barrowcliffe
Chris Smart lost to Richie Boucher

Last 32
Shaun Dibbs 0-2 Aled Goode
David Rogers 1-2 Chris Pearce
Josh Lewis lost to Anthony Freeman
Mark Lawrence beat Lloyd Browning
Darren Layden lost to Kevin Thomas
Mike Beard lost to Rob Owen
Graham Usher beat Johnny Haines
Carl Wilkinson lost to Paul Hogan
Barry Hamer beat Craig Lewis
Stephen Cake lost to Chris Lacy
Leighton Jones lost to Robert Hawker
Lee Hughes lost to Matthew Edgar
Mark Rice lost to Tony Darlow
Jonny Clayton beat AJ Urmston-Toft
Mark Layton beat Mark Penny
Stuart Barrowcliffe beat Richie Boucher

Last 16
Aled Goode 1-2 Stuart Barrowcliffe
Chris Pearce 0-2 Mark Layton
Anthony Freeman 0-2 Jonny Clayton
Mark Lawrence 2-1 Tony Darlow
Kevin Thomas lost to Matthew Edgar
Rob Owen 2-1 Robert Hawker
Graham Usher lost to Chris Lacy
Paul Hogan beat Barry Hawker

Quarter-Finals
Stuart Barrowcliffe 0-2 Mark Layton
Jonny Clayton 2-0 Mark Lawrence
Matthew Edgar 0-2 Rob Owen
Chris Lacy 1-2 Paul Hogan

Semi-Finals
Mark Layton 0-2 Jonny Clayton
Rob Owen 1-2 Paul Hogan

Final
Jonny Clayton 0-2 Paul Hogan

Darts tops poll as the highest integrity sport in the UK

Darts has been given a stamp of approval by the British public after topping an independent poll as the UK sport with the highest integrity.

The UK Sports Integrity Index by Portland Communications polled over 2,000 members of the general public in June to measure the perceived level of integrity of the top 12 professional sports in the UK.

The poll looked at how far people had judged sports to be affected by four key issues: match, point or race fixing; players, racers or athletes using performance enhancing drugs; financial corruption; and cover-up stories and scandals.

Darts was perceived as the sport with the highest integrity by the most people in four age categories from 18-54, and as the least likely to be affected by performance enhancing drugs or cover-up stories.

PDC chairman Barry Hearn, reflecting on the report, said: “This independent report is a big thumbs-up for the sport of darts during a time of amazing growth at a professional level both in the UK and worldwide.

“PDC tournaments are amongst the most-watched sporting events on British television and our worldwide circuit will offer a record £12m in prize money this year – figures that could hardly have been dreamed of 10 years ago.

“We work with the Darts Regulation Authority (DRA) to implement both Anti-Corruption and Anti-Doping programmes, while the Darts Integrity Unit offers a confidential way of reporting any potential irregularities.

“Whilst this report is a massive boost, we have to continue to be vigilant in our development as a professional sport if we are to retain this standing with the most important people; the general public who both watch darts on television and buy tickets to attend PDC tournaments in-person.

“They’re seeing wonderful characters battling it out on the oche, but the real beauty is that darts players are ordinary people with an extraordinary talent for their sport.”

To see the full report click here

German Darts Grand Prix and International Darts Open UK Qualifiers Updates

Follow this page for the latest results from this evening’s UK Qualifiers for the HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix and HappyBet International Darts Open.

HappyBet German Darts Grand Prix (ET10)
UK Qualifier
Friday August 4, Barnsley Metrodome
First Round
Andrew Gilding 6-3 Andy Hamilton
Terry Temple 6-5 Jim Walker
Josh Payne 6-3 Steve Hine
Mickey Mansell 6-1 Steve Lennon
Keegan Brown 6-0 Ryan Palmer
Ricky Evans 6-0 Richie Corner
Jamie Caven 6-1 Adrian Gray
Nathan Aspinall 6-1 John Part
Ritchie Edhouse 6-2 Callum Loose
Ronnie Baxter 6-5 John Bowles
Matt Clark 6-4 Harry Robinson
Simon Stevenson 6-5 Peter Hudson

Second Round
Stephen Bunting 6-5 Peter Jacques
Robert Owen 6-3 Jonathan Worsley
Andy Boulton 6-2 James Wade
Michael Barnard 6-1 Ted Evetts
Darren Webster 6-5 Luke Woodhouse
Matthew Dennant 6-4 Wes Newton
Steve Beaton 6-3 Richie Burnett
Lee Bryant 6-4 Tony Newell
Ray Campbell 6-5 James Wilson
Jamie Bain 6-2 Ryan Searle
Chris Quantock 6-4 Steve West
Andrew Gilding 6-5 Aden Kirk
Kyle Anderson 6-2 Paul Harvey
Andy Jenkins 6-0 Terry Temple
Robert Thornton 6-2 Scott Taylor
Jamie Lewis 6-3 Josh Payne
Darren Johnson 6-5 John Henderson
Mickey Mansell 6-4 Diogo Portela
Kevin Painter 6-3 Justin Pipe
Keegan Brown 6-5 Wayne Jones
David Pallett 6-4 Jonny Clayton
Paul Rowley 6-2 Ricky Evans
Chris Dobey 6-4 Ross Twell
Jamie Caven 6-4 Rob Hewson
Mick Todd 6-2 Robbie Green
Adam Hunt 6-2 Paul Nicholson
Mark Webster 6-2 Ricky Williams
Nathan Aspinall 6-5 Stephen Burton
James Richardson 6-5 Brian Woods
Ritchie Edhouse 6-1 Callan Rydz
Richard North 6-5 Devon Petersen
Ronnie Baxter 6-0 Warrick Scheffer
Brendan Dolan 6-2 Jim Brown
Mick McGowan 6-1 Matt Clark
Kirk Shepherd 6-0 Joe Murnan
Ryan Meikle 6-3 Simon Stevenson

Final Round
Stephen Bunting v Robert Owen
Andy Boulton v Michael Barnard
Darren Webster v Matthew Dennant
Steve Beaton v Lee Bryant
Ray Campbell v Jamie Bain
Chris Quantock v Andrew Gilding
Kyle Anderson v Andy Jenkins
Robert Thornton v Jamie Lewis
Darren Johnson v Mickey Mansell
Kevin Painter v Keegan Brown
David Pallett v Paul Rowley
Chris Dobey v Jamie Caven
Mick Todd v Adam Hunt
Mark Webster v Nathan Aspinall
James Richardson v Ritchie Edhouse
Richard North v Ronnie Baxter
Brendan Dolan v Mick McGowan
Kirk Shepherd v Ryan Meikle

Qualifiers
TBC

HappyBet International Darts Open (ET11)
UK Qualifier
Friday August 4, Barnsley Metrodome
First Round
Draw to follow

Qualifiers
TBC

The Weekly Dartscast with special guest Larry Butler + World Matchplay Review

The Weekly Dartscast is back this week with special guest 1994 World Matchplay champion Larry Butler!

The inaugural winner of the World Matchplay joins us to discuss his memories of the event in 1994, as well as North American darts and the recent US Darts Masters.

The 2017 World Matchplay is in the books so listen as co-hosts Alex Moss and Burton DeWitt recap Phil Taylor’s stunning 16th title in Blackpool in what is set to be his final appearance in the tournament.

The team also discuss comments during the event from Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright, as well as good runs for both Adrian Lewis and Daryl Gurney.

Listen to the podcast via the player above.

Subscribe to the Weekly Dartscast on iTunes here or download this week’s episode here

World Matchplay 2017 final photos

Check out photos from the 2017 World Matchplay final held at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool on Sunday. Phil Taylor bid farewell to the Winter Gardens with a crushing 18-8 win against Peter Wright to win the World Matchplay for a record 16th time. Photos are courtesy of Lawrence Lustig and the PDC.

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Phil Taylor makes it sweet 16 at the World Matchplay with 18-8 win against Peter Wright in the final

Phil Taylor emotionally bowed out at the BetVictor World Matchplay by claiming an incredible 16th Winter Gardens triumph with an 18-8 defeat of Peter Wright in Sunday’s final in Blackpool.

The 56-year-old Stoke great has dominated the history of the World Matchplay, and said his farewell to the tournament ahead of his impending retirement in style with a brilliant display to claim the £115,000 title.

Having knocked out reigning champion Michael van Gerwen and former world champions Raymond van Barneveld and Adrian Lewis on his way to the final, Taylor found another huge performance to reclaim the prestigious trophy.

Taylor, who averaged 104.24 in the final, said: “It’s fantastic – this has capped everything off for me. It couldn’t have come at a better time and it’s a bonus for me.

“It’s lovely, it really is and I’ve loved every minute of it. To win a major at my age is fantastic, and I’ve had a tough week when you look at the draw.

“I’ll miss this place tremendously – I’ve loved it here since the first time I walked through the door. It’s great to win again and it will go down in history, and I’m delighted for everyone who’s supported me.”

Wright was bidding to add his second career TV title to add to March’s UK Open victory, but the number three seed was unable to match his rival’s superior finishing on the night.

Taylor secured an immediate break of throw in the opening leg on double eight and moved two legs up before Wright took out 101 to get off the mark.

The 15-time champion won two of the next three legs to move 4-2 up before Wright finished 100 with two double tops to respond – only to see Taylor take out 72, a brace of 81 finishes, both for 12-darters, and 82 on the bull to lead 8-3.

Wright responded superbly with a barrage of big scores to win the next three legs in 12, 14 and 11 darts to pull back to 8-6 – but Taylor fired in two maximums in an 11-darter of his own to take leg 15.

Taylor also won the next three legs to move 12-6 up before a 13-darter from Wright saw him hit back briefly, with two further 14-darters moving the 56-year-old four legs away from the title.

After hitting a 13-dart finish, Taylor capitalised on five missed doubles from Wright on double 10 to lead 16-7 and hit the same bed to move to the brink of victory.

Wright took out 95 to keep his hopes alive, but Taylor hit his seventh 180 to pull clear in the next leg before fittingly hitting double 16 to seal his 16th title.

“During the final I was watching every bit of Peter’s body language and he showed every sign of being a little bit tired,” Taylor added. “I wanted to keep putting him under pressure.

“I was miles in front at one time and he came back, but I was playing ok and I kept him under pressure.”

After being left in tears following the final, Wright said: “Phil is still the best in the world and he’s showed that this week.

“I’ve watched Phil demolish other players in finals and I was on the other end of that big stick that he normally bashes everyone with – but it was a privilege in his last game here.

“I learned a lesson today and I’m grateful to be in the final. A couple of years ago I watched Michael getting beaten by Phil in the final and he was in tears, and that’s how much it meant to him.

“It’s exactly the same for me and I’ll go back to the practice board, become better and I’ll come back stronger. I’m still learning and it was great to learn off the master there in the final.”

Following his World Matchplay triumph, Taylor has been cut from 20/1 to 10/1 to win a 17th World Championship title on his final appearance in that event over the festive period.

World Matchplay 2017: Our team make their predictions

Who will win the final? Who will be the player to watch? How far will Phil Taylor go in his final World Matchplay? A host of darts journalists, pundits, commentators and former players tackle these and other questions

Who will reach the final – and who will win it?

Dave South: It is difficult to disagree with the bookmakers fancying MVG to retain his title at 4/5. In percentage terms this is an implied 55.5 per cent chance of winning. Some firms are as short as a 60 per cent chance, thus 4/6.

Michael has hit by far the most 180s this year with Dave Chisnall the only other player to break the 200 barrier according to Darts Database.

It will not be easy for the green machine possibly having to play one of team Australia in the round of 16, assuming he can see off former BDO champion Stephen Bunting in round one.

With a potential meeting with Barney or Taylor in the quarter-finals, a possible semi-final according to the bookmakers will be Dave Chisnall. I expect Michael to make the final.

On the other half of the draw the obvious picks are Gary Anderson and Peter Wright. Both have the credentials although Anderson has a potentially tricky rematch against Daryl Gurney from the US Masters in store.

Wright will not have it his own way either and a player potentially shining through at the right time is Michael Smith. If he gets his doubles tidied up he could be the finalist from the other half of the draw.

I’m most excited about the bottom half of the draw as it’s time for an emerging player to really make a mark here.

Christopher Kempf: Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen – no surprises here – will reach the final.

No other players have shown a consistent ability to beat either man in long-format darts. And it is a brave man who backs MVG’s opponent in the final, in spite of his track record of comebacks from almost unwinnable situations in televised events.

In that respect, call me cowardly. Michael van Gerwen will win a third consecutive World Matchplay title.

Dave McNally: Ok, so I’m not actually going to make any ground breaking Nostradamus type predictions here, but I can’t see past Michael van Gerwen winning the title.

The Dutchman has the knack of putting it all together at the right time, and with Blackpool’s straight legs tournament, he is capable of demoralising his opponents if he races into an early lead.

Facing van Gerwen in the final I suspect will be Peter Wright, who comes through the bottom half of the draw with his steady, competitive style and experience of knowing what is needed and how to play these big events.

Burton DeWitt: Well, it has to be Beaton-Pipe, no? No, seriously, I’m hard-pressed to see past Michael van Gerwen on the top half.

Yes, there is a fascinating potential quarter-final with either Phil Taylor or Raymond van Barneveld, but neither of them have seemed good enough so far this year to really give the world number one a challenge.

In the bottom half, I think you could make a really strong case not just for Gary Anderson and Peter Wright, but also for Daryl Gurney, Mensur Suljovic, and Michael Smith.

That said, I think Peter Wright will rebound off a poor World Series holiday and get through. From there, I’ll go van Gerwen to win 18-12.

Who will be the player to watch?

Dave South: Several – Rob Cross has been by far the breakthrough player since his epic maiden UK Open run and will at his pace break into the top 16 with gentle ease.

It would be great to see Gurney continue his great form and he has the credentials to make some distance.

I would also love to see Steve Beaton have one last magical run and he plays an Adrian Lewis who has been dealing with stuff outside the sport, which may be a distraction. Steve rolled back the years last year and is certainly a darting hall of famer.

Lastly, I would love to see Justin Pipe using this event as a platform to kick start his season again, and with a Jelle Klaasen with recent wrist injuries first up it could be what he requires. If Suljovic defeats Henderson we will get a Pipe/Suljovic second round game which I would love to see!

Christopher Kempf: Rob Cross is undoubtedly the player to watch. On the Pro Tour he’s been magnificent, but he has rarely needed to play more than 11 legs at a time.

It remains to be seen whether Cross is up to the challenge, but he’s been placed into a relatively open section of the draw.

If he overcomes Ian White in the first round, he might catch Adrian Lewis off guard and send him home. Rob Cross’ World Matchplay debut thus could be a successful one.

Dave McNally: If Wright doesn’t make the final I can see Michael Smith pushing for a place on the finals night.

He seems to have found his self belief again and has put together a decent run of form recently. I also think Steve Beaton will do well after a bit of a renaissance over the last six months or so.

Burton DeWitt: It’s not often we can say this, but Adrian Lewis. Adrian started the year very positively, and was well-positioned right after Judgment Night for the Premier League, playing well both on TV and off, where he won a Players Championship event. But for the last three months, he’s been really out of sorts.

His form dropped sensationally, culminating in a bizarre World Cup performance where he was nothing better than terrible most of the way. Since then, Lewis has pulled out of two European Tour events and a World Series event to have surgery, and the Matchplay is his first event back.

He has a tough quarter, but one that is wide open. If he is recovered, this is a great chance to fix his season. If he’s not, there’s every chance that come January he’s out of the top 10 and maybe even top 16.

How far will Phil Taylor go in his final World Matchplay?

Dave South: Phil looked so peeved that MVG snuck back in Shanghai. Phil showed he was still on top of his game. With the added confidence Gerwyn Price has generated recently from the World Series, Price will not be laying down for Taylor to storm into round two.

A possible meet and probable emotional moment could see Taylor and Barney playing against each other on TV for the last time which will be one not to miss. A Taylor quarter-final exit to a standing ovation for me!

Christopher Kempf: Phil Taylor will defeat Raymond van Barneveld in the second round before falling to Michael van Gerwen.

Were Taylor facing MVG in a shorter-format match, I might fancy his chances, but a best-of-31 match against the best player in the world is looking like a bridge too far for The Power at the moment.

Dave McNally: First or second round exit. The man who’s done everything in the sport has nothing to prove but the fight seems to have waned.

He will get a fantastic reception from the Blackpool crowd when he bows out. No fairy-tale ending for Taylor I’m afraid.

Burton DeWitt: 167.2 miles on the M6 (83.6 miles each way), according to Google Maps. I just don’t see Taylor playing well enough to be a serious contender right now.

He’s been handed the most loaded section of the draw, and even by today’s standards of ‘there’s no such thing as an easy match’, Phil really has a draw that matches that. He has Gerwyn Price—who already has two television finals this year—and if he gets past that, either a five-time World Champion in Raymond van Barneveld, or Joe Cullen, who just won his second title of 2017 in the last Pro Tour event. And that’s just to get a date with the world number one.

I have Taylor going to the quarter-final, but that seems a best-case scenario for the former world champion on his final voyage of those 83.6 miles up the M6.

Which first round match are you most looking forward to?

Dave South: Oh great question – Reyes and Thornton as talk I’ve seen recently from other darts punters is that Reyes has this in the bag. Thornton has been quiet on the circuit, but if he has prepared well for this, if there is a tiebreaker this could be it! Cross/White is another must watch too!

Christopher Kempf: The Benito van de Pas vs Daryl Gurney match figures to be an explosive one. Though Benito is seeded, he has not played like it these past few months.

From out of nowhere, however, he can post some astronomical averages and huge checkouts. He’ll need it against Gurney, who is arguably more dangerous than most of the top 10 seeds.

Dave McNally: There are a couple of first round games to relish. Phil Taylor versus Gerwyn Price, Raymond van Barneveld versus Joe Cullen, but the one match I’m really looking forward to is Benito van de Pas against Daryl Gurney.

Two exciting players on the tour who like to stir up the crowd, I can see this being a fast-paced encounter with the crowd at fever pitch as the 180s fly in.

Burton DeWitt: So, so, so many tasty first round match-ups, it’s hard to pick one. That entire quarter with Adrian Lewis and Dave Chisnall is brilliant, but Chizzy-Mervyn King takes the cake.

Chisnall’s second half of the Premier League was electric; Mervyn King has quietly been performing very well this year both on the floor and the Euro Tour stage. Both of these players are players that in a good draw I’d expect to make the quarter-finals the way they’re currently playing.

Chisnall seems to be finishing better, and when his finishing is on, he’s a nearly unbreakable opponent. But King has always had a complete game, and has to be heading to Blackpool with expectations that he can duplicate last year’s performance, where he made the quarter-final. That makes this the standout tie to me.

Which seeds are most in danger of going out in the first round?

Dave South: Potentially Adrian Lewis, although mostly likely are Kim Huybrechts to Alan Norris and Ian White to Rob Cross.

Wade and Benito are in great danger, although Webster is an underdog that never gives up, recently pocketing a Pro Tour title, and with Wade’s performances recently he needs a break! Gurney is unseeded but the favourite heading in against van de Pas.

Christopher Kempf: In order from most vulnerable to least: Thornton, van de Pas, Wade, White, Whitlock, Klaasen, Huybrechts, Chisnall.

Dave McNally: Dave Chisnall and James Wade will have to be careful in their first round matches against Mervyn King and Darren Webster respectively.

There are plenty of tricky ties in the opening round but these two matches could provide the mini upsets early on.

Burton DeWitt: I fancy five or six to go out, and I think you could make a very strong case for nine or ten to do so. But the two most likely are Jelle Klaasen and Benito van de Pas.

Klaasen got what seems to be the kindest draw in Justin Pipe, who only just sneaked in and has lost 20 of his last 29 matches on stage—and 15 of his last 19 in TV tournaments.

But since his surgery in May, Klaasen has looked like he couldn’t beat a cold. He’s only won 2 of 9 matches across all competitions, including losses to Michael Barnard, Yordi Meeuwisse, and Tony Newell. He seems in dire form.

Meanwhile, Benito van de Pas has also been struggling, and gets the added bonus of drawing Daryl Gurney, who is the top qualifier from the Pro Tour Order of Merit and comes in off a run to the final in Las Vegas where he beat Gary Anderson and Peter Wright before narrowly losing to Michael van Gerwen. So I’m going Dutch today and saying Klaasen and van de Pas are in the most danger of the seeds.

This will be the 24th staging of the World Matchplay and the 24th time it has been held at the Winter Gardens. How special is the venue to you and where does it rank among your favourite venues in darts?

Dave South: The venue is iconic for the reasons that darts has grown to great heights, which saw the Circus Tavern and Reebok lose their status as venues, but Blackpool has survived!

I have always preferred the Matchplay legs format and bar the Grand Slam in November the format suits the marathon players. Although a number of TV events are a race to 10 in the latter stages, all players are becoming familiar with the extended format.

This event is my favourite venue for the iconic moments we have seen at this event, with examples including Taylor hitting the first UK televised live nine-dart finish and Colin Lloyd hitting a 170 to win the title!

Christopher Kempf: The Empress Ballroom is just the right size for a televised darts tournament and represents a good midway point between the intimacy of the pub and the vastness of a sports arena.

The 3,000 fans in attendance can just about get out of hand, but come nowhere near the bacchanalia of the Alexandra Palace in December. It’s also the most aesthetically pleasing venue in darts – it’s as aesthetically pleasing as it is utilitarian.

Dave McNally: The Winter Gardens is probably my favourite venue on the PDC circuit second only overall to the BDO venue at Lakeside.

It has superb character and fantastic ornate surroundings befitting of a prestigous event. The ceilings are at the perfect height to add to the acoustics in the auditorium to maximise the sound of the crowd and create a raucous atmosphere.

The Winter Gardens tends to attract fans that differ from the usual PDC crowd, the seating allows the fans to become absorbed with the darts; with the majority of the seating concentrating on the ground floor level to allow those watching a real panoramic view. Yes, for me it is without doubt the best venue on the circuit by a country mile.

Burton DeWitt: Sadly, I’ve never been. But this is my favourite event on the calendar. Even watching on the television (or, in my case, laptop), you can tell everything about the week is special.

You’ve got the best players in the world over an unforgiving format in what is the crown jewel of the venues the PDC uses. And that’s not to mention that the tournament usually brings out the best of players.

While I could see any of the other events moving—even the World Championships could one day outgrow Alexandra Palace—I just couldn’t imagine the World Matchplay ever having a home that wasn’t the Winter Gardens.