Home Darts The 2017 Players Championship – A Preview
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The 2017 Players Championship – A Preview

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The road to Ally Pally makes its final stop this coming weekend with The Players Championship Finals at Butlins Minehead. The tournament represents the culmination of the 22 Pro Tour “Floor” events that have taken place throughout the year. The results of the events are then ranked into an Order of Merit, with the top 64 best performers gaining entry into this competition.

The Format

The tournament is played over three days, with the first day dedicated solely to 32 first round matches, making it one of the busiest days in terms of televised ranking tournaments of the year. Saturday sees the last 32 and 16 encounters, with the Sunday being the last eight down to the Final.

First Round – Best of 11 legs
Second Round – Best of 11 legs
Third Round – Best of 19 legs
Quarter-Finals – Best of 19 legs
Semi-Finals – Best of 21 legs
Final – Best of 21 legs

The Favourite

Michael van Gerwen of course starts as favourite having won the majority of tournaments this year, including the Grand Slam just last week. He has won three of the last four Players Championships and as a result remains the man to beat. The Dutchman and World Number One opens his campaign against 2010 champion Paul Nicholson. Nicholson is in his first televised tournament for two years having regained his tour card in January.

The Chasing Pack

Rileys favourite Rob Cross starts as number one seed for this tournament after his red hot streak this year in his debut season on the Pro Tour. The Hastings based former Electrician has already enjoyed the most successful first year on Tour of any player in PDC history. Was it really just last year he was winning through at our Norwich branch through to the UK Open?! Cross opens against Welshmen Robert Owen, who himself is making his televised debut and looking for a good performance in a bid to retain his tour card which he is currently in danger of losing next month.

Peter Wright of course remains a threat after his runners-up finish at the Grand Slam last week. His run to the semi-finals last year is his best run in this event. He opens against the excellently nicknamed the Muffin Man Steve Hine. Wright has won their past eight encounters. Daryl Gurney will be looking to impress, fresh from receiving a barrage of criticism from Phil Taylor at Wolverhampton this past weekend. The World Gran Prix winner

The Debuts

With the expanded field to 64 for the 2nd year in a row, around a quarter of the field will be making their debuts at the Players Championship.

One of the debutantes who particularly catches the eye is Richard North who gained his tour card this past January and has made steady progress throughout the year. He is the most successful player from those who gained their tour cards at Wigan ten months ago and has three last 8 appearances to his name on the Pro Tour this year. He opens against Peter Hudson, who in fact doesn’t have a Tour Card therefore overcoming the odds in qualifying. North leads the head to heads 2-0.

The Missing

In his final year as a PDC pro, Phil Taylor will not in be in Butlins Minehead this weekend as he continues to wind down his illustrious career. He didn’t enter any of the 22 Pro Tour events this year. Terry Jenkins, who is also on the verge of retirement also won’t be present despite having made a late bid to qualify in the final weekend of Pro Tour events. Some of the more regular faces on the Euro Tour and World Series will also be missing, with Germany’s Max Hopp, Austria’s Rowby-John Rodriguez and Belgium’s Dimitri Van Den Bergh all adrift of the top 64 qualifying places. Long time favourites Andy Hamilton and Wes Newton continue their decline in form and won’t be present at the Championship.

The Youth Final

Van Den Bergh may have missed out on a place in the Players Championship itself but does have the World Youth Final to contest at Butlins Minehead. He takes on Josh Payne for the crown, who also missed out on a place in the top 64. The final has added spice in addition to the £10,000 winner’s cheque, with the champion being guaranteed a spot at Ally Pally next month. Van den Bergh looks to already have a place at the Worlds even if he loses, so it’ll be Payne who will reap the most if victorious. The Belgian is narrowly ahead of Payne in the Head to Heads 5-3.

The Prize Money

The increase in prize money remains in evidence at this tournament. With an extra £60k on offer compared with last year. 1st round losers can be consoled with an extra £2,500 for their troubles (and their ranking). The winner by contrast pockets £100k.

Winner – £100k

RU – £40k

Semi-Finals – £23k

Quarter-Finals – £12.5k

L16 – £8k

L32 – £5k

L64 – £2.5k

You can follow all of the Players Championship in all our Rileys branches from Friday 12.45pm through to the Finals held on Sunday. 

Matthew Kiernan Multimedia Journalist. Passionate about darts.