Saturday 12 December 2020

Section 13 - Price, Woodhouse, Lewis, Dolan, de Decker, Foulkes

Another excellent year for Price, who's now very much entrenched in the top three players in the world, and while the ordering of those three is arguable, Price is definitely one of them. The highlight was clearly Gerwyn's Grand Prix win, at least on a ranking basis having claimed the World Cup for Wales as well - it's probably fair to say he didn't have the trickiest run he could have, eliminating Wattimena, Huybrechts and de Zwaan to meet Dave Chisnall in the semi finals, where he was fortunate to win, and then Dirk van Duijvenbode in the finals. It's got the set play monkey off his back, and it wasn't the only success - Price took the Belgian Euro Tour event, not really being threatened at any stage, he claimed four Pro Tours, and also had a run to the UK Open final, only being challenged prior to that round by Gabriel Clemens, and had a solid run at the Players Championship Finals, only being stopped by the eventual winner in van Gerwen.

It's not been completely plain sailing - Danny Noppert did for him at the Matchplay which, while Noppert's a solid operator is still a bit of a surprise, and he was very fortunate to get through his Grand Slam group and then couldn't defend this title after Nathan Aspinall was a little bit better in the last sixteen. The Euro Tour could have been a little bit better, although while he lost early in three events, twice he went out to the eventual winner and Ross Smith was on fire in the third. Not a ranked event, but he'd also liked to have got to the Premier League playoffs, although that was a pretty weird league all round, prone to interruptions and the format change probably hurt Price more than most. Still, Gerwyn has to be rated as a real threat to go all the way here.

Luke Woodhouse had a breakout year in 2019, getting a string of good performances together culminating with some big major upsets right at the end of the year. 2020's not been as good, but his standard hasn't dropped off a huge amount and he's still a tricky opponent on his day. The best performance on TV (out of a choice of two) was most recently at the Players Championship Finals, where he got two good wins over Brendan Dolan and Andy Boulton, but would then suffer a bad loss to Dirk van Duijvenbode - not so much the loss, more the size of it, 10-1 is going to have hurt a lot. He's also made one good run to a Pro Tour quarter final, albeit it was the weakest one of the year (PC8), and he got through Arjan Konterman from the Challenge Tour, his first round opponent here, Mickey Mansell and Glen Durrant in a decider before, with the event looking winnable for anyone, going out to Derk Telnekes. He also had a bit of a good result on the Home Tour - hitting a nine on the second night in his 5-0 demolition job of Gerwyn Price. What he'd give to have that start in round two, if he gets there!

Elsewhere it's been a bit of a struggle - Luke made two Euro Tours, got one tricky draw in one in van Duijvenbode but had a real bad result in the other getting blown out by a domestic qualifier. He was ranked high enough to get a bye to the money round of the UK Open, but a loss against Josh Payne is one he'd probably want to have back, especially when it developed into an alright next round draw as well. The quarter final I mentioned on the Pro Tour was the only time Luke won his board - aside from the Autumn Series, where Luke had a bit of a bad spell, he's at least winning his first game, but running into troubles getting through that second game. It's mostly him hitting seeds or an otherwise good player, but it's hard to really advance your rankings significantly unless you can get up and around the top 32 on the Pro Tour rankings, which is held by exactly those players. Getting a first round win here would be useful.

Has this been a bad year for Jamie Lewis? Hard to say, you've got to take it in context and compare it with previous years, and he's had a tough time for quite a while now. At least he is back here after winning the PDPA qualifier, defeating Dave Pallett, Alan Tabern and then Robert Thornton in a close final which was scrappy at times, a key four leg run where Lewis finished in 15, 15, 12 and 14 to go from 4-2 down to one leg away being the difference, showing a bit of what we know Jamie can do but what has been increasingly rare in recent times. He's indicated he's wanting to take a bit of a break, and did miss the Winter Series and the back end of the Autumn Series, maybe that's done him some good.

Got to look realistically at how he's played though, and it's not great. He got a good win against Ross Smith at the UK Open before going out to Mensur Suljovic, and he beat two other Smiths (Jeff, Michael) along with Antonio Alcinas in his best run of the year in Players Championship 5, stopped only by Gerwyn Price. But aside from that, he's had just two wins all season, one against Cullen is nice, the other against Gary Blades. In fairness, looking at his Pro Tour games he's had frequent tough draws, but you'd have thought he might have nicked one or two in the early part of the year. Then there's his sole Euro Tour appearance, and the less said about that the better. He'll need to beat Price and probably someone else to retain his card, so I guess we hope that either a win at Q-School will give Lewis confidence back, or a year on the Challenge Tour will allow for a bit of a break and give time to rebuild that way.

Nice year on the floor for Brendan, who continues to put up very solid performances in this renaissance of his career. His floor consistency has been remarkable, and apart from a block of three losses at the start of the Autumn Series, Brendan won his first round game every time but once, has reached the board final more than half the time, and has plenty of deep runs which, despite a more or less complete absence from the Euro Tour where he went out first round to the surprise package of Franz Roetzsch, is keeping him up in the seeds and landed him nearly in the top 10 seeds for the Players Championship Finals. The best run was to the final in PC7, beating Wade and Chisnall on the way before losing to Nathan Aspinall, but he has three further semi finals as well, and just in those he's beaten van Gerwen, Cross and Heta. His scoring is up high enough to be a consistent threat and if he gets to the last 32, Price can't afford to take him lightly.

He'd like to have done a bit more in the majors though, he did get that good seed at the PC Finals but ran into another potential round three opponent in Luke Woodhouse who did little wrong, Brendan averaging 97 not being enough. Similarly in the UK Open, he averaged 95 and won nine legs - Jamie Hughes averaged five points more and took one leg more. He got in the two "tricky" majors to qualify for, very high up in the Pro Tour ranks, while van Gerwen would be too much in the Matchplay, maybe he could have done more against Kim Huybrechts in the Grand Prix. It also looks like Brendan missed a match dart against Chisnall which would have got him into the Grand Slam - unfortunate if that's accurate. I'm not sure Dolan has the greatest ceiling, but his floor level of performance is high enough to get him out of quite a lot of awkward spots.

One potential opponent for Brendan is Mike de Decker, who's making his world championship debut having got in through the lower end of the Pro Tour rankings. Mike, who'll turn 25 in a few days, increased the Belgian representation on the Pro Tour after winning his card back in January, claiming a card outright on day two by winning nine matches, including over the occasionally decent Szekely, card holder Kleermaker, the increasingly dangerous Kevin Doets and youth phenom Justin van Tergouw, before knocking out the veteran Swede Dennis Nilsson in the final. Once getting on the tour, Mike's been putting up consistent numbers, albeit not getting any headline-grabbing results, with just the two major appearances, only the one Euro Tour on home soil where he beat Ron Meulenkamp before giving van Gerwen a decent game, and hasn't managed to reach the quarter final stages on the Pro Tour, although he did manage that in his previous tour card run when he was a lot younger.

His majors saw him get wins over Lisa Ashton and Daniel Larsson to cash the UK Open, but would lose a decider to William Borland the round before all the big guns came in, and while he made the Players Championship Finals, he was a pretty low seed and ended up losing in the first round to Jose de Sousa. He has two board wins on the Pro Tour, both in the Summer Series, the second was more or less nice draws but in the first he had to go through Jason Lowe and Devon Petersen, which isn't bad. He's won his opening game more often than he's lost, and over the course of the year he's additionally got wins over Danny Noppert, Jeffrey de Zwaan, Joe Cullen, Dave Chisnall and Jamie Hughes, all of which are seeded here. He's been around enough to gain a lot of experience here, and has a better chance than many of getting an alright run.

Edward Shoji Foulkes. Interesting name, and not one that people might have expected to qualify - especially given that in the event he would come up against the strong favourite Seigo Asada in the semi finals. In a race to four, Asada would win the first three legs, but then Seigo would lose his scoring, Edward would get some well timed big scores, Seigo would miss a dart at bull for the match, continue to fail to score - at one point scoring five which Edward replied to with a max, then it's 3-3 and steady one treble a visit play got Edward to a finish first, and double twelve would push him into the final. Edward would come from 4-2 down to Akihito Morita here to claim his spot, dodging three match darts which should have been more. Edward also beat Mikuru Suzuki in the earlier rounds.

A final average of 80 isn't great, but it's all we've really got to go off in terms of reads. There is no dartsdatabase page for him. The Japanese federation page has no info on him. I can't see any Asian Tour records, Youtube searches are coming up pretty much blank apart from this qualifier. I'm struggling here. It looks like he should have enough to give Mike a decent game, but de Decker should be that little bit too strong really.

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