Thursday 26 April 2018

Things to watch in the Players Championship

Was going to make this post and include a "let's see how the Challenge Tour players do", but first I want to comment on the whole way in that the PDC pulls through the players to fill the remaining spots. While I think it's a whole lot better than the previous version, I do wonder if, with the hugely top heavy prize structure with 30% of all the prize money going to two players in each event, that it doesn't just favour those players which have one lucky run. Perhaps after the third weekend these will get filtered out somewhat, but why not do it a bit differently? Here's what the order would look like if we sorted by total wins - just considering the round of 128 onwards so those that don't get a bye don't get extra points against what will be a relatively easier opponent:

One argument in favour of the current system is that it allows players who can't necessarily play every Challenge Tour event (like, say, Ratajski when it clashed with the European Tour qualifiers) to have one or two good runs and get up there. Then again, the system above would allow players (like, say, Ratajski) to get in through consistency rather than just one good run. I think we all appreciate that Pallett's in good form from the UK Open, but he can't get near the Pro Tour - he'd get a spot under this system. If we break ties by money, Ratajski would also get a spot on the Sunday where Richard North is additionally skipping it, instead that last spot goes to Ted Evetts, who despite winning an event isn't even in the top 30 for most wins (that is every player level on ten wins by the way).

So what else should we look for? Cadby and Barney are skipping, otherwise apart from North on the one day and Terry Jenkins it's mostly weaker foreign players that don't threaten to do much anyway, so it's a high quality field. Let's go:

- Who's going to win? I think with the strength of the field it's unlikely that we're going to see another new winner up there, barring any further withdrawals - the seedings make it look like we'll get van Gerwen, Cross, Gurney, White, Clayton, good Webster, Price and Wade on one side of the draw, while the other sees Wright, Smith, Suljovic, Cullen, both Andersons, Chisnall and Adrian Lewis. Fairly even stuff.

- The race to Blackpool is heating up. It's important for Norris to put some work in, currently safe as a seed by about 20k but that could go away quickly if he's not careful and he wouldn't make it through the Pro Tour rankings, Lewis and Cullen are getting close to being seeded, van de Pas just behind but going the wrong way and not really close on the Pro Tour rankings, for the Pro Tour spots the likes of Jamie Lewis, Chris Dobey and Vincent van der Voort would like a solid weekend to get ahead of Ron Meulenkamp who's currently taking the last spot. With Cadby likely returning soon and likely to grab enough money to come from outside (he's currently £4k behind Meulenkamp) then pushing forward right now is key, particularly for Dobey without any European Tours upcoming. Similar could be said for Keegan Brown and Richard North, they're in now but miss the next two European Tours so will lose ground to players around them.

- How will the new winners do? Hopp and Clayton are in the same pods of the draw as the #2 and #1 seed respectively, so will crash into very good players better than they'd like. Can Mansell back things up?

- Will Whitlock and Wright rebound if they're eliminated from the Premier League tonight? We've already seen Price improve his game once he was knocked out and Suljovic, although he wasn't playing badly, has been a bit better in terms of results - we could ask the same about Barney but he's not playing.

- Can someone make a deep run that hasn't won before? As mentioned above, I don't think it's likely that anyone will actually win one, but Dimitri, de Zwaan, Aspinall, Lewis, Dobey, West and Wilson are all up in the top 25 of overall points per turn in the PDC this season and could put together a string of wins, and if there's some upsets and carnage, who knows?

Stay tuned for an update on Sunday evening.

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