Monday 31 January 2022

Your next new winners

Now I'm not quite sure of the last time I did this. I can find a post in May 2018, but I'm sure I must have done it more recently than that. Maybe I didn't - I'm pretty certain that I've not done this since the world went mad, and if I didn't do it right at the start of 2020, then I doubt I would have done it in 2019, as that would surely have been too close to the previous post. So we'll just go now and try to pick out my top names to win each of a first ranking title, a first European Tour, and a first Pro Tour. I will go with the usual (?) proviso, that if someone's won a bigger event but is lacking a smaller one, I won't consider them, so while I'm fairly sure Rob Cross is yet to break his European Tour duck, that he has won the world title makes it a bit redundant.

Edit - I did it in April 2019 as well by the looks of things. Looking at who I picked then, none of the players I selected to win a major have yet, two of the Euro Tour picks (Ratajski, Cullen) have got one, and three of the Pro Tour picks (Dimitri, Dobey, Ross Smith) have got one. Not a great return, but what can you do?

Ranking majors

1) Michael Smith - Same number one I've had for the previous two lists. It really doesn't feel like he's going to become another Terry Jenkins (or, for that matter, Dave Chisnall), he has gained yet more deep run experience, his game is very clearly at a top ten/Premier League level, and he's shown a heck of a lot more maturity to pull through tight games. It'll happen sooner rather than later, but I've been saying this for four years now.

2) Joe Cullen - A name I was going to have a fair bit further down, but after last night I genuinely think he will push on and have the confidence to get over those last couple of hurdles to claim a big one. He's managed to get two Euro Tours, now has a TV title, and we've seen what winning this can do to someone. The counterpoint is that he could easily get murdered every week in the Premier League and lose a bunch of confidence. Let's hope not.

3) Luke Humphries - Already having reached one major final, three world quarter finals, it is a huge surprise that he has not yet won any sort of event at senior level. Has certainly shown he can mix it with the best, it wouldn't surprise me if he does a Dimitri and has his first bink be a huge one.

4) Dave Chisnall - Now this is somewhat similar to Smith, in that he's had plenty of chances already, but there's a fair bit of difference to previously. First, there's no one dominant name right now that makes things an auto-loss at a final stage. Secondly, he's tightened up on his finishing a bunch, which was always the Achilles heel for Chizzy. Finally, he's shown that he has been able to take out the huge names on the big stage, notably the MvG annihilation in the previous year's worlds, which is something he's likely to need to do at some stage. Playing well as well.

5) Krzysztof Ratajski - I'd normally put someone who was in the top 8 in scoring a fair bit higher in the list, but I've got a sneaking suspicion his best chance might already have come and gone. His form does look to have tailed off a touch in the last six months, and while I didn't watch either of his games this past tournament, some people have muttered the word dartitis, which even if not the case, if his game's a little bit off, that could be a big blow, given he appears somewhat of a deliberate player rather than naturally flowing. I still think there's enough there that he has a chance if everything comes together at the right time (the UK Open would possibly be the perfect chance given the nature of the event), but this could turn out to look ridiculous in the worst case scenario.

European Tour

1) Ryan Searle - Would this surprise anyone? No, it wouldn't. Searle is going to be seeded for pretty much all of these this season, and with the quality of play he has put up in the last twelve months, along with the results to push onto one major final, yet another solid worlds run and getting another ranking title, it is not ridiculous to suggest he's the player best placed to make a breakthrough at the European Tour level in 2022. I could easily have bumped him up to five in the above list instead of Ratajski.

2) Chris Dobey - If anything, Dobey is playing better. The numbers he has put up on the floor don't lie, they're phenomenal, the counterpoint is that they have only just started to convert themselves into ranking results, and Dobey lacks the super deep run into a major. He has got to a European Tour final before at least, so he knows what these are like.

3) Dirk van Duijvenbode - Dirk went a little bit off the boil in 2021, but is another major finalist, is now a Pro Tour winner compared to where he was at the end of 2020, and has done a good job of accumulating the stage experience that is really needed in order to claim a European Tour.

4) Danny Noppert - Noppie is, if anything, playing at a better standard than Dirk is, it's just not hugely worked out in terms of results - his scoring in 2021 was at a top ten level, but he's yet to add to the first Pro Tour he was able to get back in 2018. He has performed solidly in majors though, adding a second ranking semi final, and of course was able to get to the final of Lakeside way back when. It might take a little bit longer than the above, maybe he needs to final or bink another Pro Tour to get the confidence in terms of results, and he is missing this weekend, but the game is there for sure.

5) Damon Heta - There's not much that is preventing Heta from getting one at this level. He's won a World Series event, he's won on the Pro Tour, his scoring is at a top 16 level, and he has enough on the Pro Tour that he is going to be seeded for at least the first few events as he continues to rise up the rankings. Wouldn't take too much for a path to open up for Damon to push through and claim a title at the next level.

Pro Tour

1) Martin Schindler - I've backed him to do well in pretty much every single event in 2021, the numbers are indicative of him being at a level where he definitely can break through and get a senior title. He's got a bunch of experience, deceptive if you just look at his age and not his record, and has come through the adversity of playing well and not getting the results (to the point where he lost his card, only to immediately get it back). I do think he's got one of these in him very, very soon. He's not seeded in the mid 20's for no reason.

2) Gabriel Clemens - Will go with back to back Germans to open things off, Gabriel's levels have stagnated over the past couple of years it's fair to say, but he is still maintaining scoring over 90 (although both Schindler and Hempel are higher) and a solid Pro Tour seeding position. He was only a couple of legs away from getting one as recently as October and he's had a few goes at it, surely he converts soon.

3) Martijn Kleermaker - May be a little bit of an odd choice, simply because his scoring in 2021 isn't at the level of the two above, but there's a lot of things going for him. He has somewhat of a false ranking after the joke that was the 2021 worlds for him, he is not too far off being seeded for Pro Tours, so could get into a spot where he can catch a big seed early in an event and have the draw open up, which is kind of what happened in the one where he did make a final already, although he did need to take out the top seed in his quarter himself. Lastly, prior to joining the PDC, he was hoovering up everything on the floor, and knows how to win.

4) Alan Soutar - This is just looking at the impact he was able to make in his first year. Real steady performances throughout with some highlight results, like Kleermaker he is not far off the Pro Tour seedings. He's shown some real fighting qualities in the worlds to pull off games where he looked completely lost, that's the sort of thing you think he'll need to do to claim one, but he can.

5) James Wilson - He's had a pretty bad couple of years, let's not beat around the bush, but the numbers he put up in 2021 were, as mentioned previously many times, deceptively good. We've seen what players who win their card on day one have been able to do in the past - Jason Lowe a couple of years ago, Jamie Hughes the year before, Corey Cadby the year before that. Probably just a case of getting a couple of wins on the board early just to derust the whole winning at this level feeling, then it wouldn't surprise people given the class he has to get through a board, then who knows?

6) Darius Labanauskas - Labanauskas has a previous final to his name, albeit it was back in 2019, but the scoring of late is just fine clocking in north of 90, and he has the sort of game that can stick around win anyone over a short distance, or longer - you don't stick around with MvG in a world quarter final if you're not a quality player. Probably another one who could benefit from a decent run to just push himself up into the Pro Tour top 32 first.

7) Jim Williams - This is more from what he's been able to show us in the BDO for quite some time, where he was taking plenty of titles and ending up extremely high in their rankings, as well as what he's been able to show on the PDC stage - pushing Cullen to a deciding set in the worlds, winning the Challenge Tour, and being unlucky to not escape from his Grand Slam group. Maybe doesn't quite have the elite level scoring to get himself out of a tricky spot where he'd need to hit a twelve to stay alive, but he's one who will clean up the easy chances given, and it doesn't take too many of those to convert into a deep Pro Tour run.

8) Florian Hempel - More German involvement, Hempel already made waves in 2021 on basically half a season on the floor, then shocked many casual commentators by turning over Dimitri in the worlds. There does seem to be a little bit of a lack of consistency in the game, but if he can work the tour well and iron that out, his A-game is certainly enough to cause plenty of top players trouble.

9) Rusty-Jake Rodriguez - He's managed to get himself a full season on the tour, more or less, through his Q-School ranking, and now he gets to do it again as a tour card holder after cleaning up nearly half of all the Development Tours that were available to win. His scoring in 2021 matches, to the second decimal point, Simon Whitlock's, which ought to give you a decent idea of where he stands in the senior game. With the experience gained and the winning mentality, it wouldn't be a huge shock if Rusty was to get a title, 2021 might be a touch soon, but the kids these days win stuff at a pretty young age.

10) Jermaine Wattimena - This is a little bit of a more left field name given he had a quite terrible 2021 and was lucky to even make the worlds, where he looked pretty bad, but we are not too far removed from where he was able to reach Pro Tour finals (was a couple of legs away in late 2020), and was close to the top 16 and getting a contenders shot in the Premier League. There's a good enough underlying game there, that if he's able to work out whatever hasn't been clicking in 2021, he can get back to deep runs again and the stage where he was in a quarter final or better seemingly every other weekend. His scoring was only just under 90 in 2021, so it is not as if he was playing terribly. I was going to put Scott Waites here, then remembered he does have a major title, oops. It wasn't ranked then, I'm pretty sure, so does he count?


So I suppose the big news this weekend is that Vladimir Anderson and Madars Razma took the titles in the opening SDC weekend, and that Diogo Portela, Danny Lauby and Kai Fan Leung were able to qualify for the UK Open, right?

Well, no I guess, as Joe Cullen managed to win the Masters, with in fairness a very strong showing which is an early contender for best single tournament performance in 2022. The problem is that it's got him into the Premier League.

Now I don't know if there's anything that's gone on behind the scenes with Cross and the PDC, and Rob wasn't interested in playing it for whatever reason, in which case it's fair enough. But to have a non-ranking "major" (and if you can name me what TV events are weaker outside of individual World Series events, if they ever return, do let me know), seemingly count more than a ranking major, particularly when the winner of the ranking major smashed the other guy 11-3 during that event, that's wrong. Nothing against Cullen, and I'm pleased he's got a win and it'll be a great opportunity, but if you win a ranking major, you should get a Premier League invite. It's that simple. If you want to force Cullen into the line up to add a new face, dump Anderson, who's won nothing all year, got murdered by Cullen on his way to the title, and is probably very close to getting the Barney treatment based on perceived popularity. Cullen outscored Anderson all season. Heck, I'm surprised it wasn't Anderson that said "meh, I'll give it a miss" based on his fear of travelling to Europe.

But hey ho, it is what it is, and one can only hope that Cross can utilise the reduced schedule to hit the Pro Tour and European Tour hard early in the season. The upshot is that we can now decide the second/third division darts competitors:

Division Two

On last season's rankings: Damon Heta, Luke Humphries
On last season's third division rankings: Dirk van Duijvenbode
On year end FRH rankings: Jose de Sousa, Rob Cross, Dimitri van den Bergh, Krzysztof Ratajski
Wildcard one: Ryan Searle (highest FRH ranked player not selected, close to binking a major, murmurs of PL selection, just outside top 16 in overall scoring)
Wildcard two: Chris Dobey (highest scoring player not selected, seemingly set for a breakout season)
Wildcard three: Dave Chisnall (highest FRH ranked player not selected after Searle, could easily have got in by right if it were not for world championship bullshit, based on this weekend seemingly playing well)

Division Three

On last season's third division rankings: Callan Rydz, Keane Barry
World Youth Champion: Ted Evetts
On year end FRH rankings: Adam Hunt, Steve Lennon, Martin Schindler, William Borland
Wildcard one: Rusty-Jake Rodriguez (winner of multiple young player of the year awards in 2021, already playing at a high level on the senior circuit)
Wildcard two: Rowby-John Rodriguez (maybe not played quite as well on the senior circuit, but pretty close, scoring just fractionally under 90 in 2021, would have been the next player in from the FRH rankings)
Wildcard three: Ryan Meikle (comparable scoring to Rowby, only a few spots behind him in the FRH rankings, showing signs that this could be a breakthrough year)

In other news? Winmau's taken over from Unicorn as the PDC board supplier. Good. I don't think anyone outside of the Lowy family actually thinks the Eclipse is a better board than the Blade, that they've switched to a better board can only be a good thing. Also, the PDC have announced that they're going to let the players who were in the WDF worlds who won a tour card compete. I think this is a very welcome and sensible move, after all, they would have been able to play it if it wasn't pushed back, although it would have created a few interesting questions if any of the players who made the final were also doing Q-School. If they all do play it is another question, I've not looked at the schedule just yet but I believe someone said that it does clash with a Euro Tour and a couple of Pro Tours. We'll see what happens. I'll be back later tonight probably as I've been wanting to do a "most likely players to next win some level of title" post for a while now, with Pro Tour at the weekend it's best to call 2022 sooner rather than later.

Edit - in my disbelief at Cross not being selected for the Premier League, I forgot he was not selected for the Premier League, so division two lineup edited accordingly. Sorry Noppie, you're out.

Saturday 22 January 2022

Tungsten Analysis 2021 Awards

Alright, let's get through this, but got to give huge props to Scott Williams for picking up BOTH Challenge Tour events yesterday. That's one hell of a display of not only good play but also stamina, it's something that has been done before, but not since 2014, will certainly put him in an excellent position to get onto all the early Pro Tours and in pole position to get a tour card and World Championship position for 2023. The absence of Sherrock is baffling - it is in her back yard, it is a legitimate route to getting a tour card, and we've said for a while she needs to work on her floor game. So she misses the weekend. Very odd.

A reminder of the provisos we have for this - a player can only win one of player of the year, most improved player, best new tour card holder and best young player (in that order), we're not professional football writers who'll say Bale is the best player and best young player at the same time. Don't be greedy.

Best single tournament performance

Previous winners:
2017 - Phil Taylor, World Matchplay
2018 - Gary Anderson, World Matchplay
2019 - Peter Wright, World Championship
2020 - Ryan Searle, Players Championship 3

Nominees: Aaron Beeney, Players Championship 10, James Wade, UK Open, Rob Cross, European Championship, Joe Cullen, Players Championship 13, Brendan Dolan, Players Championship 5

Winner - Peter Wright, Players Championship Finals

There's not really a standout performance, unless you consider Jonny Clayton in the Premier League, but I'm not entirely sure whether batting slightly north of .500 over the course of the season then coming up good in the final is really worth it, could also chuck in John Henderson in the World Cup, but that is a team event and while he more than pulled his weight, I'm not sure I can give it. We'll go with Wright winning the last major before the worlds - he had one heck of a tough run despite being the number two seed, Keane Barry in the first round is a real tricky customer, then he got a twice world champion, an ultra dangerous Damon Heta, MvG, before Clayton in the semis then was pushed all the way by Ryan Searle in the final. Of notable mentions, Beeney's run to the semi final where he took out two world champions was a true highlight, Wade's UK Open win was deceptively tough with Joyce, Cross, Clemens, Whitlock, Price and Humphries being his route. Speaking of Cross, he may not have run into the toughest names, but apart from MvG in the final, nobody got close to him, and given the pressure he was under with the amount of money being defended, it's definitely worth the mention. Then we've got a couple of PC wins to round it out - Cullen going through White, Wade, MvG and Price from the last sixteen onwards is a tricky run, while Dolan got no easy games in his bink, with Lowe averaging a ton in round one, the oft-dangerous Jamie Hughes, then Price, Heta averaging 104, Mitchell averaging even higher, the one-seed Cullen before edging out Michael Smith in the final.

Match of the season

Previous winners:
2017 - Rob Cross v Michael van Gerwen, World Championship
2018 - Gary Anderson v Mensur Suljovic, World Matchplay
2019 - Peter Wright v Noel Malicdem, World Championship
2020 - Michael van Gerwen v Joe Cullen, World Championship

Nominees: Ryan Meikle v Dirk van Duijvenbode, Players Championship Finals, Michael van Gerwen v Nathan Aspinall, European Championshp, Michael Smith v Gerwyn Price, World Championship, Fallon Sherrock v Dimitri van den Bergh, Nordic Darts Masters, Gerwyn Price v Kim Huybrechts, World Championship

Winner - Michael Smith v Jonny Clayton, World Championship

This game had it all in the rare occasion where an evenly matched (in terms of seedings at a minimum) pair in a hyped up match delivered epically, with Smith coming from a 2-0 deficit in sets to send us to overtime in a deciding set, which he's just able to nick right before we hit sudden death. Elsewhere, it's been a little bit of a lean year in terms of classic games, as an awful lot of matches seem to be somewhat one sided - the Meikle/Dirk game was hidden away on board two but is a true must see with both players averaging over 105, Aspinall and Sherrock produced epic comebacks in the respective games I've listed, Fallon getting over the line but Aspinall running into an eleven on throw from Michael in the decider, then we've got a couple of Price games in the worlds - the game against Smith was almost as good as the game Smith was involved in from the previous round, while Huybrechts was able to bring his best game to get a lead, then when we thought he was done after Price rolled off six straight legs, he was able to hold his nerve and take us to set seven, which went all the way to a decider.

Most disappointing season

Previous winners:
2017 - Benito van de Pas
2018 - Rob Cross
2019 - Raymond van Barneveld
2020 - Adrian Lewis

Nominees: Glen Durrant, Michael van Gerwen, Steve West, Devon Petersen, Jermaine Wattimena

Winner - Jeffrey de Zwaan

It seems like an age ago since de Zwaan was a Matchplay semi finalist, winning ranking titles, looking like eliminating Peter Wright in the worlds he was able to win, now he's had a horrific year where he won his board just once on the Pro Tour, and collapsed in the rankings from being high enough to qualify for the Masters, then fall enough to be outside of the world's top 32 and not even make the world championship. Elsewhere, Durrant's issues have been well documented, van Gerwen won basically nothing of note at all which is a huge disappointment for someone playing as well as he has been doing this season, finishing off with being screwed in the biggest event of all, West is in severe danger of losing his tour card after having a horrible year on the floor (albeit he did win more than de Zwaan did), Petersen's suffered a horrible regression in form after an epic 2020, while Wattimena has fallen back severely, just scraping around and only just getting into the major events, and not looking useful when we have seen him.

Best young player

Previous winners:
2017 - Justin van Tergouw
2018 - Luke Humphries/Leighton Bennett
2019 - Keane Barry
2020 - Callan Rydz

Nominees: Luke Littler, Callan Rydz, Sebastian Bialecki, Fabian Schmutzler, Bradley Brooks, Nathan Rafferty

Winner - Rusty-Jake Rodriguez

Incredible year for the Austrian, only just missing out on getting a card through Q-School, he was able to get into pretty much all the main tour events he wanted, average very solidly there (within the top 50), as well as claim five Development Tour titles to score more cash as the next two players in the rankings combined. A phenomenal year that shows he belong on the Pro Tour to stay. Other players of note saw Littler make huge waves on what consists of the non-PDC scene to qualify for the WDF worlds as a seed despite not even being old enough to play on the Development Tour, Rydz follows up his win last year with more Pro Tour titles and big major runs, Bialecki made his name with a nice UK Open cameo where he made the fourth round and hit a nine darter, as well as claiming titles on both the Development and Challenge Tours, Schmutzler came from nowhere to dominate the second weekend of the EU Development Tour, winning two titles and making a further final to qualify for the worlds, Brooks followed up his world youth title by claiming three Development Tour wins and the outright UK tour win, and had a very good showing at the Grand Slam where he gave Gerwyn Price a great scare, performances almost matched by Rafferty, who's continued to develop and will finally get to show what he can do on the main tour in 2022.

Most disappointing news of the season

Previous winners:
2017 - Phil Taylor still not getting it quietly
2018 - Everything to do with the UK Open
2019 - Everything to do with the BDO
2020 - Kyle McKinstry and Wessel Nijman match fixing

Nominees: Deaths of Kyle Anderson and Andy Fordham, Sportradar somehow getting worse, Gerwyn Price being forced out of the Premier League, the WDF calendar being massacred, all the withdrawals from the World Championship

Winner - Everything to do with the European Tour/European Championship

Where to start on this one? While an awful lot of this is out of the PDC's control, this could surely have been handled much, much better. There were weeks across the summer where one could have been put together, in England if necessary, and they're holding unranked exhibitions in multiple European countries, which could probably have been cancelled and European Tour events held in their place, pushing the European Championship Finals back to the end of October. As was, we somehow had less events post-meltdown this year than we did in 2020, and the lineup was a joke as a result, with multiple big names missing out due to a couple of quick events, the comedy situation where players could win just one match and be in, and if it was in Gibraltar it took preference, it was a complete clusterfuck. Elsewhere, we've lost two of the sport's nice guys way before their time, the bane of the statistician's life, Sportradar, redesigns and makes it even harder to get any useful information, and the PDC's continued usage of it when Dart Connect is a clearly better system in every sense is baffling, we're still yet to see a full return to a non-PDC calendar with the WDF's worlds being pushed back (probably too soon), still no sense that we'll see a Dutch Open any time soon - then we come to the withdrawals. The PDC could easily have worked their schedule around to accommodate Price's false positive result. Have him pull double shifts later. They've done this before, they could have got their world champion and world number one into their biggest exbo. Then we saw a top three player and multiple others being denied the chance at the worlds - here the scheduling and the likely conditions they were working under probably didn't give them much chance to work around it, but it seriously damaged their main event of the year.

Personal highlight of the season

Previous winners:
2017 - Mensur Suljovic wins the Champions League
2018 - Ian White claims a European Tour title
2019 - The explosion in quality from non-traditional areas
2020 - The PDC's efforts to get some sort of calendar on

Nominees: Chris Dobey finally winning a title, John Henderson getting a World Cup win, Jose de Sousa's triple tops out vs Aspinall, Borland's nine

Winner - Matt Campbell winning his tour card

The amount of effort that Jeff Smith has had to go through with the ridiculous Canadian restrictions to play in the Pro Tour has been well documented by him. For Campbell, it's just as bad, except the lower prize money on the Challenge Tour makes things much more of a risk, so for him to commit to the EU Challenge Tour, and then to claim three titles and his card under those circumstances was incredibly pleasing to see. In other spots, the reaction of Henderson to be able to claim the World Cup where he was arguably the better player in the team was great to see, there were a couple of really nice moments where de Sousa brings out the exhibition (is it?) checkout against Aspinall and where Borland produces the leg of his life when it mattered the most, and Dobey was finally able to break his title duck, which will surely relieve a lot of pressure and allow him to push forward to greater things in 2022.

Best new tour card holder

Previous winners:
2017 - Richard North
2018 - Danny Noppert
2019 - Glen Durrant
2020 - Damon Heta

Nominees: Florian Hempel, Jason Heaver, Lewis Williams, Scott Mitchell

Winner - Alan Soutar

It has to be Soots really. He did so much early with his dominating performances and UK Open showing that there was only going to be the one winner here. Certainly within the realms of possibility that if he continues this level of play that he's up in the top 32 by the end of the season. Great stuff. Hempel could have run him close if he hadn't missed much of the early part of the season, certainly one to watch and is in a tight run to see who will partner Clemens at the World Cup with the returning (i.e. not new) Schindler and Hopp. We've then got three players who all did enough to qualify for the worlds in their first season, Mitchell is probably the best known players from his BDO days, but has looked extremely competent, winning multiple boards, Williams did flash occasionally on the Development Tour and in the UK Open before getting a first run at the main tour and more than holding his own, then we've got the lesser known Jason Heaver, a bit of a random name in terms of card winners, but he was able to get through to an early Pro Tour semi and generally produce enough to make the worlds, where he got a win and is at least giving himself a shot at holding a top 64 spot at the end of next season.

Most improved player

Previous winners:
2017 - Daryl Gurney
2018 - Jeffrey de Zwaan
2019 - Nathan Aspinall
2020 - Devon Petersen

Nominees: Ryan Searle, James Wilson, Chris Dobey, Aaron Beeney, Raymond Smith, Florian Hempel

Winner: Martin Schindler

We were seeing spots of this last season, where Schindler was probably the best player statistically not to have made the worlds, but what he's done since then is pretty remarkable, completely crushing Q-School, winning the German Superleague, and just relentlessly scoring all over the place and seemingly winning his board every other Pro Tour. In other mentions, Searle is at the level where he's making major finals, winning Pro Tours, and being talked of as a possible Premier League wildcard (at least before they reduced the field), Wilson really upped his game in 2021 compared to previously and was looking in terms of numbers back like a top 32 player, if not in results, and wasted zero time in getting his card back. Dobey's figures are at a top ten level, he's finally won Pro Tours and there is no ceiling in terms of how far he can go, Beeney upped his game hugely, even outside of that previously mentioned semi final, certainly not looking like the free win he was for most of 2022, Smith's performance in the worlds indicates he's got a heck of a lot better than he was when we last saw him, which given how the domestic scene in Australia has got a lot weaker given how everything is fragmented is quite the achievement, while Hempel is a name we've seen for a while on the fringes of the European Tours, but we've not seen him play anywhere near as well as he has done this season.

Player of the year

Previous winners:
2017 - Rob Cross
2018 - Gary Anderson
2019 - Michael van Gerwen
2020 - Gerwyn Price

Nominees: Peter Wright, Gerwyn Price

Winner: Jonny Clayton

Wright and Price may have won more major titles, but in terms of how they have all performed in comparison to where they started at in 2021, it clearly has to be Clayton. Winning the Masters was a bit of a surprise, but that happened, it got him into the Premier League, he won that, was able to get an effective clean sweep of unranked TV titles by getting the World Series finals as well, and then crushed the world number one to claim a first ranked major in the Grand Prix. A remarkable year to push himself up into the top four in terms of quality.

That's the lot, feel free to disagree in the comments!

Monday 17 January 2022

Losing Challenge Tour player gets zero points in stage 2

AKA ups and downs from Q-School. It's been a bit of a mad one, but let's go through it:

Up - Norn Iron!

Great weekend for the country. Mickey Mansell regained his card at the first attempt. Kevin Burness returns after a couple of years away, after showing signs of form to qualify for the world seniors. Hot prospect Josh Rock won his card outright on the last day, after Nathan Rafferty finally did enough to get on the main tour. All will join Gurney and Dolan to give Northern Ireland amazing representation on tour.

Down - Sky hype train derailed

If this was anyone else, then we would not be surprised at someone who paid out more money in entry fees than they won in prize money on last year's Challenge Tour not getting a card, but because it's Fallon Sherrock, it's the only thing that matters for reasons unknown. That it took a Danny Baggish level of run on day three of stage one to get that far in the first place was a concern, but you would have thought if she could play even half as well on the floor as she can on stage, then she should have been fine. But she has consistently shown an inability to do so in open-gender events. Why will be forever a mystery - I can't think of a single player that has had this big a disparity between stage and floor games with the stage being better. Even Dimitri of four-five years ago wasn't this far apart.

Up - Ross the boss!

This is one I didn't expect to see. Frankly I didn't expect him to even play, as mentioned in a prior post, but to have done well enough to get a card is a real shock, despite him having won the last big WDF event to have been held. Will be really interesting to see how he does, and the best of luck to him.

Up - The old guard produce!

Darren Webster and James Wilson grabbed their cards outright. Wilson we kind of expected, Webster we thought maybe not so much, but a great run on day 2 took it outright as well. Richie Burnett's back. We'll see Nick Fullwell again. A bit younger, but certainly a veteran of the darts scene, Scott Waites reclaimed a card.

Downs - The Americans couldn't do it

Jules van Dongen did get a card from the EU tour, but does he really count? We'll give them it, but after Danny Lauby topped the points table, Jacob Taylor won a day and Leonard Gates got through, none of them were able to make any sort of impression, Gates being the closest, but Lauby and Taylor only got two points each, one less than Gates. John Part couldn't get out of stage one either, neither could Shaun Narain.

Downs - Disappointing results from the EU from players I wanted to do well

This is naturally purely subjective, but I really wanted Sedlacek to get back onto the tour, I'd like to have seen Klaasen get another go at it, Franz Roetzsch would have been an interesting addition, Sebastian Bialecki I think's done enough on the lower tours that he would absolutely have been value on the main tour, while the Spanish contingent of Reyes and Alcinas are always good to watch. And none of them got close. Tricole was a bit closer but still a good 2-3 points away.

Up - Decent youth representation!

Quite a few good younger players managed to gain or regain a card. Evetts was one we really needed to see as the world youth champ, we've already mentioned Rock won outright and that Rafferty is on tour finally. Connor Scutt's still relatively young and is someone who I think will make an impression and stand a good chance of making the Players Championship. George Killington had a really good seven days, maybe the first time he had a card he was too young, and these two years will see a solid improvement. Kevin Doets gets onto tour after barely missing out on the worlds, Danny Jansen is another Dutch player who's got through who's not even 20 until later this year.

Downs - Byes

This is a major bugbear and one that would be super easy for the PDC to sort. They only score points from whatever round has no byes. This is fair enough in the first stage, but on stage two, they know this is going to happen from day two onwards, and a handful of players are going to have a major advantage. As such, I don't know why after day one, they don't go down the stage one list and invite each of the first players to miss out to make up the field of 128. They can then just score one point for a win, nobody gets a free win, and it gives a few more people a slight chance of getting their tour cards. Many people will have budgeted for hotels for the full seven days, failing that there will be some people who live close by to the venues. At least the top three players know they will get a shot. This is really no different from using the Challenge Tour (last year Q-School) rankings to fill out a Pro Tour field.

I think that's most of what I want to pick out. Later this week, assuming no PL lineup announcement, I'll probably sort year end awards.

Saturday 15 January 2022

PL new format

Couple of announcements been made by the PDC over the last day or two. The one I'm most excited about is that the Rileys' qualifiers for the UK Open are back - while in the last year of them they did kind of get overrun by a bunch of Challenge Tour players, it is always fun to see who can win a tournament to play their way in - especially if it's a relative unknown.

The big one however is the Premier League revamp. I get a feeling this one isn't going to go down that well. As the glorified exbo to end all glorified exboes, it does need shaking up now and again, but I don't think they've thought this one through. I could understand a cut down to eight, I mean eight players did pick themselves then de Sousa and Dimitri made it up to ten by default, and you don't necessarily want to pick players by default, but the format I feel will get stale, and quickly. While in the old format, you did see repeating matches, it was only ever once in the whole league. Right now, you have the very strong possibility of seeing the same matches for weeks on end. It may be new and exciting in week one, but if we're on week five and we're seeing Price against Wright at some stage for the fifth week in a row, it's going to get boring. Fast.

Additionally, what the hell are they thinking with regards to the scoring? Win your first game, you get two points. Win your second game, you get one point. Win the final, and you get two points plus a token (for these players at least) cash prize. Having the first round game be the (equal) most valuable game in terms of points seems like a horrific mistake, if you go 1-1 in every single week of the season you will finish with an above average number of points. That doesn't seem right at all. The PDC have previous for this, it was like that in either the UK Open qualifier prize structure or the Pro Tour back in the day, it is now back to like that in the Pro Tour now, it's also like that on the European Tour unless they've changed the prize money again and I've not noticed (and I'd like to think I would notice). Making it six for a win, three for a final and one for a semi final would be much more sensible.

Will comment on Q-School extensively tomorrow and probably compile some stats for those who've got cards. I'll want to look at the stats as a whole ahead of the Challenge Tour anyway.

Saturday 8 January 2022

Let's pick out some Q-School winners

Blimey, that's come around fast. It looks like a fairly even split of the 32 cards available with the UK maybe edging it 17/15 or there abouts, let's try and pick out ten names to watch for - not necessarily to win a card, but that will be of interest. Will start with the UK:

James Wilson - Had left himself way, way too much to do in the worlds, and then kind of let himself down in his match, but he was playing really good stuff all year, just not getting results. You would think that with the bye to stage two, he should be able to do enough across the four days to, if not bink a card outright, get a couple of deep runs in order to secure the points needed.

Fallon Sherrock - I mean this is an obvious one, but she really needs to start performing on the floor. Last year she didn't at all, if she can work that out then it'll be fine, but it still needs to be done. She is clearly good enough to do so.

Connor Scutt - Has had a real nice set of results towards the end of the season, won't necessarily be a player that's under the radar - by the looks of things he's one of the top four or five players in the FDI Elo rankings that aren't tour card holders, and he has played some PDC stuff before so it won't be a new experience at all. Will need to come from step one, but is playing well enough to do that, then who knows?

Leighton Bennett - We've not heard a great deal from the youth stage as a whole of late, apart from Luke Littler doing amazing things, so it's a little bit up in the air as to exactly where Leighton's game is at, but he is now old enough to enter Q-School, so let's see how things go. It might be the case where getting a tour card straight away could actually be too soon, and a year doing the Challenge and Development Tours to gain PDC experience would be beneficial, but it's always going to be hypothetical one way or another.

James Richardson - We've seem James do some pretty great things on the PDC circuit in previous years, and he's looked alright when we've seen him play in the Modus leagues and other non-PDC events, so he's got the quality, just needs to convert it.

Leonard Gates - The American will finally make a steel tip worlds debut at the WDF event, but before then we'll see if he's able to make an impact. He's trying the UK route rather than the EU event this year, let's see if that works out for him. He did get to stage two last year, he's certainly shown the sorts of averages that can put enough wins together on a given day to do that.

Paul Hogan - This was a name that surprised a heck of a lot of people to appear, lots of people have always been thinking about what Hogan would be able to do if he ever gave the PDC a go, now we'll get to see it in action. With the wealth of floor experience that he has, this could easily be done, you just wonder if he's left it too late.

Robert Thornton - The former major winner didn't actually have a bad 2021, getting into plenty of the Pro Tour events from his ranking at last year's Q-School and performing very solidly in the process. Would not surprise me at all if he goes a little bit better this time around.

Matt Edgar - It's going to be great content one way or another, right? Wasn't exactly playing badly in 2021, just couldn't quite get enough to get into the worlds where just one win would have seen him save his card. There's actually markets as to whether a player will get on the tour, and Matt's actually 1/2. That seems a bit short, but he's got a very good chance.

Ross Montgomery - Another one where I saw the name and thought "what, really", Ross isn't a name I'd have expected to see on a Q-School list any time soon, but it's there. Will be an interesting experience for sure.

Now to the EU:

Rowby-John Rodriguez - This seems like an obvious place to start, Rowby was only one place off actually getting a tour card by right, so will be one that you would expect to claim the card easily enough. He's got a bye to stage two from the Challenge Tour so that one hurdle is out of the way, just a case of playing consistently enough across the days, which I think is something that's now in his game.

Karel Sedlacek - Karel was actually scoring slightly higher than Rowby across the year, and another one where he's unlucky to have lost his card. If he'd beaten Benecky in the regional qualifier I think he'd have ended up safe on countback as things turned out. Seems solid enough to get through, another one that'll have the bye to round two, so let's see if he can get back on tour straight away.

Sebastian Bialecki - The young Pole has done quite a few notable things in 2021, mainly at the UK Open, so let's see if his game has matured enough to produce the results to get onto the main tour. He did win on both the secondary tours this year, so has the experience of getting through these sorts of large fields.

Dragutin Horvat - There's going to be quite a lot of German players in the field, but I'm going to pick Horvat first, we've seen him quite a few times on the PDC tour, there's usually one German that will sneak through the qualifiers, we know he's got the peak game, so why not?

Thibault Tricole - One name that is seems like everyone picks to get a card every year but he can't quite do it, he's been steady for many years now and it would be great to see another country represented on the PDC main tour.

Brian Raman - If we're going to pick the WDF worlds #2 seed, we've got to pick the #1 seed, right? Brian has to be one of the names that will be in the running as a result, the only thing with him and Tricole is they're both starting from stage one, so there's not a lot of room for error if you end up getting a bad draw or having an off day.

Kevin Doets - One player who won't need to take part in stage one is Kevin, who was a little bit unlucky in last year's Q-School, but certainly made a name for himself when he was able to play on the Pro Tour through the top up lists, and was quite unlucky not to actually qualify for the worlds, only finishing off a couple of places outside. I would expect him to rectify things and get on the tour outright.

Cristo Reyes - This is of interest simply because we have no idea where Cristo's game is at, Reyes having not played in nearly two years now. We know how good his game is when he's at his best, although he was a bit off that when he basically stopped playing in 2020. Having just lost his card he will get straight to round two, so will avoid some potential banana skins and just needs one decent run.

Fabian Schmutzler - Got to stick the youngster in here. Will we work out that he is the real deal, or will his Development Tour debut weekend end up being a fluke? There's only one way we're going to find out. I think part of what I said for Bennett in the UK section also applies here, he's so raw that being flung into the deep end might actually hurt his development, but we'll see.

Juan Rodriguez - Need to give some funking power to the guy who got fucked over in the worlds the most due to the ridiculousness of the world we live in right now. At least the others that got fucked over did so at a stage where they were actually able to get some cash in the bank, Juan didn't have that luxury. I'm not sure how strong the earlier stages of the qualifier he came through were, but coming through any sort of big qualifier will have given him confidence at least.

Friday 7 January 2022

So we dropped some money to the Weekly Dartscast

Decided to sponsor one of the categories in the Weekly Dartscast year end awards. Was a simple equation - have I got more than 20 quid's worth of value out of their podcast over the years? Answer is a clear yes, so happy to give a bit back and get a bit of a plug for the site in return.

So, new readers may be asking, what do we do here? Lots of stuff, but let's summarise:

- We (I say we, but it's a one man thing for the most part) do have our own year end awards post coming up in a week or so. Would normally post after Lakeside (how costly is that move now going to be for the WDF by the way, especially if a lot of their top qualifiers end up winning a PDC tour card), but that's been kind of moot for the last couple of years. Previous years are all in the archives.

- We picked tip of the year to sponsor mainly because in a large part this site gives tips. We are only interested in single matches, so if you're wanting to know whether to put Price, de Sousa and Clayton into an acca, or whether Madars Razma winning the match, hitting four 180's and two ton plus checkouts at 20/1 is value (no), you're not going to find it, although if a favourite doesn't look bad value but we don't have the edge to make it a recommended play, we'll tell you. We know people like a punt, and there's nothing wrong with that in moderation.

We just concentrate on the easily calculable - and we've had four straight winning years since the godsend that is Dart Connect has allowed us to get a true picture into how everyone on the Pro Tour is playing with a much larger sample than previously, which could quite easily be in the single digits worth of matches for much of the tour back in the day. We had a shocking worlds which'll make five in a row tricky, but with (hopefully) close to a full European Tour schedule, which is our bread and butter, we'll have plenty of opportunities to make it back. The value's usually in knowing those players that aren't on TV every week, which is possibly why the worlds went hugely downhill after Christmas, having been in a decent spot after round two. Any tips are bolded 99% of the time (usually only not if I'm posting up super quickly on my phone) for ease of location, I'll usually post on Twitter (@jtuk) when I've put up an analysis post.

- I would like to clarify in terms of tips is that I just look at the best line available on oddschecker on the more mainstream bookies. I'm not affiliated with any of them, and don't have any financial interest to push you one way or another like many tipping blogs have a tendency to. If I can't bet it without going to and needing to use dogecoin to deposit, then I won't list it.

- We'll also give a bit of commentary into upcoming and concluding events, just to add a bit of personal opinion into what's going on in the world of darts. I say world - this is very much NOT just a PDC blog, although it may read that way a lot of the time of late, that's more due to things outside of the WDF etc's control. The UK Open is usually a big post or series of, and while I didn't have time this year, the worlds is even larger, usually done in a preview/year review kind of format for each qualified player.

- The FRH rankings are posted up periodically, which are basically the standard PDC order of merit with the tweak that older events get downgraded linearly dependent on just how old they are, to give a bit of context as to who is outperforming their standard order of merit position more recently. So before you look at the post immediately below and go "van Gerwen number five you're an idiot", think of where (and when) he's got most of his money from. I believe Matt Edgar's just put up a Youtube vid saying players he think will rise in the rankings this season - this kind of does the same thing.

- In the links bar to the right (at least on desktop, no idea how it appears on mobile), there's a link to something I call Second/Third Division Darts. This is a year long thing I do where, similar to the Challenge Tour and Development Tour for the tour as a whole, I set up secondary tiers just below the players qualified for the Premier League, then look at their year long matches against each other, just to see how things might have gone hypothetically. Is it a coincidence that Michael Smith won the second division this year and made the final of the worlds? You tell me. I could probably pick this year's already as it's glaringly obvious they're just going to pick the top ten in the world (but they're waiting for fallon to get a tour card and put her in lol), but I'll wait for the official announcement.

- I'll occasionally go into a deep dive on some strategy-based things. Usually triggered by something I've seen on TV, I'll take a look at what's happened and work out whether it's a good idea. Things like when to use the bull (earlier than you are doing), is it a good idea to go bull first on 132 (probably not), those types of things. If you've got a question that you want to see answering, let me know in the comments. Haven't done a huge amount of this sort of thing of late, probably something I'll get more back into this year. If I get a ticket to something I'll often do a trip report, but I can't see that happening any time soon to be honest.

That's generally what we do. Just one guy trying to make a few quid on the darts and understand the game better.

Tuesday 4 January 2022

FRH year end top 100

So, Wright was able to claim a second world title. Pity for Smith, who was matching him all the way right up until the end of set 9, after which Wright stepped things up a little and Michael couldn't respond. Pity, but I'm sure the major will come soon.

To the year end FRH rankings - number in brackets indicates the +/- change from last year:

1 Peter Wright (+1)
2 Gerwyn Price (-1)
3 Michael Smith (+6)
4 James Wade (+2)
5 Michael van Gerwen (-2)
6 Jonny Clayton (+13)
7 Gary Anderson (-3)
8 Jose de Sousa (0)
9 Rob Cross (+1)
10 Dimitri van den Bergh (-5)
11 Joe Cullen (+3)
12 Krzysztof Ratajski (+1)
13 Ryan Searle (+21)
14 Dave Chisnall (-7)
15 Nathan Aspinall (-4)
16 Luke Humphries (+24)
17 Dirk van Duijvenbode (+4)
18 Mervyn King (+2)
19 Danny Noppert (+5)
20 Stephen Bunting (-3)
21 Brendan Dolan (+12)
22 Callan Rydz (+29)
23 Gabriel Clemens (+2)
24 Daryl Gurney (-9)
25 Damon Heta (+12)
26 Mensur Suljovic (-4)
27 Ian White (-11)
28 Vincent van der Voort (-1)
29 Devon Petersen (-6)
30 Chris Dobey (0)
31 Simon Whitlock (-13)
32 Ross Smith (+10)
33 Glen Durrant (-21)
34 Ryan Joyce (+4)
35 Kim Huybrechts (0)
36 Martijn Kleermaker (+22)
37 Willie O'Connor (-1)
38 Jermaine Wattimena (-10)
39 Adrian Lewis (-10)
40 Ricky Evans (-8)
41 Darius Labanauskas (0)
42 Alan Soutar (NEW)
43 Adam Hunt (+4)
44 Steve Lennon (+4)
45 Jamie Hughes (-14)
46 Jason Lowe (+9)
47 Luke Woodhouse (+2)
48 Maik Kuivenhoven (+14)
49 Raymond van Barneveld (+44)
50 Florian Hempel (NEW)
51 Ron Meulenkamp (+3)
52 Martin Schindler (+28)
53 William Borland (NEW)
54 Madars Razma (-4)
55 Rowby John Rodriguez (+39)
56 Keane Barry (+41)
57 Ritchie Edhouse (+33)
58 Steve Beaton (-19)
59 Ryan Meikle (+4)
60 Jeffrey de Zwaan (-34)
61 Boris Krcmar (+27)
62 Mike de Decker (+9)
63 Jeff Smith (+5)
64 Joe Murnan (NEW)
65 Scott Mitchell (NEW)
66 Raymond Smith (NEW)
67 Andy Boulton (-14)
68 Bradley Brooks (+24)
69 Rusty Jake Rodriguez (NEW)
70 Lewis Williams (NEW)
71 Jason Heaver (NEW)
72 John Henderson (-26)
73 Steve West (-28)
74 Chas Barstow (NEW)
75 Max Hopp (-31)
76 Keegan Brown (-34)
77 Fallon Sherrock (+23)
78 Ted Evetts (+5)
79 Scott Waites (-12)
80 Nick Kenny (-3)
81 Lisa Ashton (+3)
82 Jim Williams (NEW)
83 Michael Mansell (-26)
84 Karel Sedlacek (-15)
85 Ryan Murray (-19)
86 Danny Baggish (-25)
87 Boris Koltsov (NEW)
88 Matt Edgar (-29)
89 Gordon Mathers (NEW)
90 Wayne Jones (-25)
91 Niels Zonneveld (-19)
92 Adam Gawlas (NEW)
93 Andy Hamilton (-19)
94 Jelle Klaasen (-30)
95 James Wilson (-19)
96 Diogo Portela (NEW)
97 Paul Lim (-10)
98 Matt Campbell (NEW)
99 Kevin Doets (NEW)
100 John Michael (NEW)

Highest players from last year to drop from the top 100 were Darren Webster (52), Justin Pipe (56), Nico Kurz (60), Josh Payne (70) and Derk Telnekes (73).

Monday 3 January 2022


Good to get a little bit back by Wright winning yesterday, who'll now play Smith in the final. I am not 100% sure why the market is as close as it is, with Wright being a best price of 4/5 (Paddy Power, Betfair) and Smith being evens in many places with 11/10 being widely available. Looking at season long data, Wright projects to win a second world title slightly more than 60% of the time - which is not quite enough of an edge to consider betting him, but it definitely seems slightly off, I'd have expected pricing of 8/13 and 11/8 or something like that.

I guess it's down to how Smith has played in the tournament as a whole, he's scoring ever so slightly more than Wright is (it's only a quarter of a point though), which is good for second in the tournament among players who won their opening match only behind Clayton, who he obviously beat. That would give Smith the tiniest edge at around 53% if you just look at the ~150 legs they've won between them. That's a decent enough sample size to consider as an alternative, but that's only roughly the same differential in line if we were to consider taking the 11/10 as if we were to look at taking the 4/5 on Wright season long. As such, somewhere in the middle I guess is fine, no major mistakes are being made so I can't recommend any plays.

As for the quality of the event as a whole, take a guess at how many more points per turn have been scored on average in the worlds as compared to season long data. For the record, that includes all Pro Tours and Euro Tours, the back end of Challenge and Development Tours, regional tours where available (basically just seems to be Nordic/Baltic) and any WDF data where available at a high enough level.

A twentieth of a point. Not a lot, is it?

Sunday 2 January 2022

Semi finals

The post Christmas betting continues to be a total loss with King not showing up at all in possibly the worst quarter final since, well, I don't know, Barney against Baxter in the year Whitlock made the final? It was a stinker. Anderson/Humphries were OK, while the evening session had a couple of classics. Downside is that all the people I wanted to win were eliminated, and I really want whoever wins out of Wade/Smith to take the title now. Also seems as if the Premier League picks itself, if it isn't the four semi finalists, the three major winners not there, then van Gerwen as well as JdS/DvdB by default, i.e. what is just going to be the worlds top ten by default, then either they bring back the contenders (how do they cut to nine though?) or give it a major shake up. The latter seems unlikely given they're already billing night nine as judgment night on the calendar.

So, today. Wade/Smith looks to see Michael have slightly more than a two in three shot season long. He's 4/11, this seems slightly too short, but there's not enough edge on Wade at 12/5, particularly given how he's played. Ando/Wright looks to be hugely in favour of Peter, Anderson has played decently well, but we can get better than 1/2 on Wright and the projection I have gives him more than three chances in four, so 0.25u Wright 8/15 looks like the only play to make.