The PDC darts calendar tends to crank through the gears at this time of the year with several televised majors to come ahead of the granddaddy of them all: the World Championships in December/January. This World Grand Prix is an appetising little starter to the main course, and it’s an event which enjoys plenty of interest from pundits, punters and armchair supporters thanks to its unique format.
It’s a sets-based tournament, which are pretty rare these days, and it’s a format the players tend to prefer: you can lose a set 0-3 but still be very much in the match.
And the unusual ‘double in’ set-up is exactly as it sounds: the players have to hit a double before they commence scoring in a leg; keep missing and they can only look on as their opponent makes them pay.
It’s an intriguing format then and one that could throw up the odd unusual result, even if there was nothing unusual about Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson, the players ranked one and two in the world, duking it out in the 2016 final; MVG coming out on top 5-2.
But the 2015 edition was a rather more eyebrow-raising affair, with Robert Thornton beating MVG in the final and Mark Webster and a then largely-unknown Mensur Suljovic reaching the last four.
With MVG seemingly out of form after losing two of his three matches at the Champions League of Darts, Phil Taylor absent and Gary Anderson not always the strongest double hitter, you sense that we could have another ‘surprise’ champion in 2017.
Snakebite Ready to Finally Break Major Duck
In his own mind, Peter Wright is yet to win a televised darts major. He lifted the UK Open trophy earlier this year, but he was quick to denounce his own achievements. Michael van Gerwen was MIA with a back injury, while Phil Taylor had decided to put his feet up and watch the action unfold on telly. Snakebite was very open in saying that his win was tainted by the absence of two of the finest players ever to pick up the tungsten.
So even though he keeps racking up non-major silverware – last week’s International Open was the Scot’s ninth title of the campaign, Wright is yet to win a biggie with MVG in town; and boy how he would like to bet the Dutchman prior to getting his hands on the trophy.
As per the draw he wouldn’t have to do so until the final, with Wright taking up residence in the bottom half of the draw alongside Anderson and the sixth seed Suljovic.
Wright’s potential run to the final would include matches against Stephen Bunting, the winner of Mervyn King and Ronnie Huybrechts, plus one or more of Anderson, Suljovic and James Wade. That won’t be easy, but then with the incredible standard of darts in the PDC it never is!
The double-in format won’t hurt Wright, indeed he has a higher checkout success rate than anyone else in the PDC this season other than MVG and Taylor, and he is experienced enough on the big stage now to handle the pressure of what is a more nerve-racking experience for the players than normal.
It’s a tough old route to the final, but with MVG yet to fire after returning to the game since the birth of his first child, there’s a few in the field that will fancy their chances of getting their hands on some early autumn silverware. Wright is one of them, and 8/1 is a more than fair price for a player that has won a decent ranking event title as recently as a fortnight ago.