With the World Championships just around the corner, the PDC calendar makes its final TV stop before it’s showpiece event at the ninth edition of the Players Championship.
Often an excellent indicator for form, this year’s tournament at Minehead has been spiced up thanks to the field being expanded to 64 for the first time in it’s history.
Here are the facts and stats you need to know ahead of this marquee event.
The youngest winner of the Players Championship is perhaps unsurprisingly Michael van Gerwen who first scooped the title in 2013 in a famous win over Phil Taylor. In a classic finale, the then 24 year-old overturned a 6-3 deficit to triumph 11-7 over the sixteen time World champion. There are six players in the field who could beat this record including Austria’s Rowby John Rodriguez (who faces Ronny Huybrechts) and Belgian Dimitri van Den Bergh (who takes on Gerwyn Price). 22 year-old Josh Payne faces Mark Walsh, Benito van de Pas tackles Brendan Dolan, while former World Youth Champion Keegan Brown is against Ian White.
Speaking of the World Youth Championship Berry van Peer is the only one of the field to be playing in two tournaments this weekend. He has also made the Final of the World Youth Championship which will be live on the main stage. He faces a stern test in the form of the much touted Corey Cadby from Australia on Sunday evening. Van Peer’s first challenge however is against Spain’s Cristo Reyes on Friday afternoon.
The oldest winner of the title is of course the ever-present Phi Taylor who scooped the third of his Players Championship crowns at the age of 52 in 2012. His three tournament wins is also a record. Surprisingly, Taylor will be the most notable absentee from the field this time round as he hasn’t qualified for this year’s competition for the first time in his career. The 56 year-old only competed in three Pro Tour events earlier in the year and ended up outside the top 64 on the Pro Tour order of merit. Taylor is also on record as stating he won’t play in any Pro Tour events in 2017 as he looks to scale back on his darting commitments. Will we ever see Taylor grace the Players Championships again we wonder?
There are three men who could potentially better this record including Terry Jenkins who faces Mark Webster, and Steve Beaton who takes on Jeffrey de Graaf. The oldest man in the field is 55 year-old Ronnie Baxter who is under pressure to keep his place on the Pro Tour currently ranked four places above the top 64 cut-off point at 60th. The former two-time Lakeside finalist takes on Northern Ireland’s Daryl Gurney.
There are only five players who been ever present at all nine Players Championships. In addition to the previously mentioned Jenkins and Beaton, James Wade, Mervyn King and Jamie Caven have all been ever-present. Jamie Caven is under pressure heading into this tournament having lost his last four games in TV tournaments. He opens up against Jamie Lewis.
Wade and King square-off against one another, with the latter having taken the spoils on their two previous meetings this year.
Speaking of King, Mervyn has the record of the most wins at the tournament without having ever triumphed to take the title. 2010 saw King’s best run, reaching the Final with wins over James Wade, Jelle Klassen, Wayne Jones and Colin Osborne. He would eventually be edged out 13-11 by Paul Nicholson.
Only five people have ever lifted the Players Championship trophy, and in addition to the notable absentee of Taylor, another former winner Paul Nicholson will also be missing. The 2010 winner is actually in danger of dropping off the Tour completely and is likely to have to go to Q-School in January to regain his Tour card.
2011 winner Kevin Painter is up against Dave Chisnall and 2014 champion Gary Anderson goes head to head with John Henderson.
Reigning champ Michael van Gerwen will be aiming to equal Taylor’s three title wins, and you’d be hard pushed to bet against him. He opens against Andy Hamilton.
Largely thanks to the expanded field, there will be 24 debuts at this year’s tournament. The highest ranked of which is Spain’s Cristo Reyes (pictured) who is quickly on the way to becoming the first Spanish player to break into the world’s top 32. He could achieve that aim this weekend with a good run in this tournament. The lowest ranked player in the field is Dutchman Vincent Kamphuis. The world number 88 faces James Wilson.
A Game of Patience
Andy Jenkins has had the longest to wait to make his second appearance at the Players Championship Finals. The 45 year-old was in the very first Players Championship in 2009 but hasn’t appeared in the competition since then. He lines up against Alan Norris. Also waiting patiently was Andy Hamilton who was only drafted into this event earlier this week after Kyle Anderson was forced to withdraw due to Visa issues.
John Henderson still awaits his first victory at the Players Championship having lost on his previous two outings. Spare a thought also for former finalist Mark Webster who will be looking for his first victory at the Players Championship since he won his semi-final in the 2011 tournament.
A Global Event
Eleven countries will be represented at Butlins Minehead with players from Spain and South Africa making appearances for the first time. We’ve already mentioned Spain’s Cristo Reyes, but dancing Devon Petersen is always a guaranteed hit with the crowds for his walk-on alone. The South African number one faces off against Robbie Green.
In the Money
There is record prize money up for grabs this time round, with £75,000 to the winner in the £400k total prize fund. Those that lose in the first round can console themselves with a cheque for £2000.
The Players Championship will be shown live at Rileys Sports Bars with the final on the 27th November.