When do the Christmas festivities begin for you? Is it when the Coca-Cola truck advert comes on the telly? The first showing of Home Alone? Perhaps your tree goes up on December 1st without fail each year?
For some, the celebrations really kick into gear when the PDC Darts World Championship gets underway from London’s Alexandra Palace. Typically, the penultimate Thursday before Santa goes about his business, this is where punters begin to let their hair down and enjoy some titanic tungsten on the telly.
This year’s tournament is given an added dimension in that it will be Phil Taylor’s last ever appearance on the famous stage. The 16-time world champion is hanging up his darts at the conclusion of the event, and so this will be his last chance to add some silverware to his bulging trophy cabinet.
There are plenty of other guys who will be looking to ensure the Taylor story has a sad ending, rather than a Hollywood moment, and none more so than Michael van Gerwen, the reigning world champ. MVG has once again lain waste to the rest of the darting fraternity in 2017, but we do have qualms about him here….
The Dutchman has only won this title once in the last three years. Now, most players can retire very happy men if they only claim a solitary world title, but for a bloke who routinely wins EVERYTHING on the circuit it is a rather circumspect record.
Maybe he doesn’t like playing at the Alexandra Palace? A more likely reason is the sets-based format, which sadly isn’t enjoyed in very many tournaments these days. But in the Worlds, and also the World Grand Prix, it remains a feature – and noticeably MVG doesn’t have a glittering record in either.
At bookmaker quotes of 8/11, van Gerwen simply has to be taken on. We recognise he is the most likely victor come January 1st, but we also recognise the threat that exists to his crown from elsewhere.
So if not MVG, then who? For our money, it has to be Gary Anderson.
The two-time world champion has had a fallow year by his standards, but has shown enough form lately to suggest he is bubbling up at just the right time. He played well at both the World Series Finals, where he lost in the final to MVG, and the Grand Slam, where he somehow let a 15-10 lead slip to lose 15-16 to Peter Wright.
The Flying Scotsman missed the Players Championship after his new-born daughter suffered some health complications, but Anderson has reported that all is good on that front and he can now head to London and focus on his darts.
He is simply too generous a price at 7/1, in our opinion, given that he occupies the other side of the draw to MVG and has a fairly agreeable route to a potential final with the Dutchman – Phil Taylor the obvious obstacle should they meet in a possible quarter final.
Nevertheless, we’re happy to take a chance on the Scotsman at what can be considered an inflated price.
Can It Be Wrong to Bet Against Wright?
The biggest news in the world of darts lately has been the health of world number two Peter Wright, who was admitted to hospital last well suffering from gallstones.
Snakebite is now recuperating at home, but you have to wonder how much practice he will be able to put in ahead of his tilt at the title.
Just a reminder https://t.co/i23rOooIHm
— Peter Wright (@snakebitewright) June 1, 2018
Wright is as affable a sportsman as you will find, so it feels slightly wrong to be using his misfortune for our own gain. But, he faces a tough second round tie against Jonny Clayton should both progress pass the first round, and ‘the Ferret’, as Clayton is known, has a real chance of causing an upset.
The Welshman won his first ranking event in the PDC back in the summer when he took one of the Players’ Championship qualifiers, and at the main Players’ event itself he continued that fine form by reaching the final – his first televised finale. Clayton’s game is progressing nicely, as are his confidence levels, and he may just find himself taking advantage of Wright’s lack of preparation.
It’s a longshot punt, by any measure, but we can take the 5/1 available now on Wright being eliminated in the second round of the tournament.
Another benefactor could well be Adrian Lewis, who has been drawn in that third quarter alongside Wright et al.
Jackpot has got a new set of darts and has been waxing lyrical about his game ever since, and with tentative yet positive steps made at the Players’ Championship he could well improve further at a venue in which he has won a World title before.
Lewis can be backed at 5/2 to win the Third Quarter, and with a path to the last eight that is fairly agreeable – the likes of Simon Whitlock, Darren Webster, Kim Huybrechts and Alan Norris stand in his way, we could essentially have odds of 5/2 on him to beat Wright or Clayton in the quarter-final, which we’d happily gobble up.