Tuesday 13 December 2022

(7) Clayton, (11) Beaton, (ChaT) van Trijp

Jonny Clayton - FRH #9, 636-503 (55.84%), 94.19 scoring (#9), 3.68 consistency
Steve Beaton - FRH #53, 337-343 (49.56%), 88.32 scoring (#64), 4.50 consistency
Danny van Trijp - FRH #108, 166-178 (48.26%), 86.81 scoring (#78), 1.92 consistency

Steve Beaton returns to a world championship for the 208768th time, as the former world champion hit form at the right time, shooting up the Pro Tour rankings with a great run to the final in the last Pro Tour event of the year, a run which saw him defeat John Brown, Nathan Rafferty, James Wilson, Mike de Decker, Stephen Bunting and Dave Chisnall before going down 8-6 to James Wade in the final. I wouldn't say he was rolling back the years, as apart from the game against Bunting he didn't average over 95 once, but it was great to see him putting the results together in what's otherwise been another fairly quiet year, although one which did see him looking moderately safe before the 8k was added on the last day. Steve did get a further five board wins prior to that final run, pushing one of them through to a quarter final, but on the other hand he was losing his first game slightly more than half the time, and we saw kind of a similar story in Europe, with a pretty bad record in qualification for most of the year, although picking things up late to get into the last three events, but while he made the second day twice, that was down to getting byes in both Jena and Gibraltar, so the only actual win was over Nathan Aspinall. As such, he's too far off making the majors these days, limited to just Minehead, where he lost his opening game on both occasions, first to a Riley's qualifier in the UK Open (Graham Hall isn't bad though), then to Matt Campbell in the Players Championship Finals. The scoring continues to slide slightly, 88 is competent but it's getting to the level where it's not really quite good enough to sustain a top 64 spot for much longer, but at least we know he can outperform on occasion and nick the critical games when needed.

van Trijp is a relatively young (only just Development Tour ineligible) Dutch player making his debut after finishing third in the Challenge Tour rankings, ending up slightly behind Robert Owen, but with Scott Williams already getting his card and worlds spot through the Pro Tour, Danny is in here and will be on the tour next year. On that Challenge Tour, it looks very much like he hit a purple patch on one day early in April, where he would get the first of his wins, beating Lukas Wenig in the second event of the day after having come up one game short in the first event losing out to Stephen Burton. Danny would add his second title the next weekend against Jelle Klaasen, but outside of that it maybe wasn't plain sailing, with a fair few finishes outside the money or only making a minimum cash, and he only managed to finish around 40th in the averages for the season. Still, getting it right when it matters is key, and he gave himself enough to work with early on to get here. Those results got him into quite a few of the Pro Tours in the second half of the season, everything from Players Championship 14 onwards outside of the final weekend, and he's struggled a bit at that level, losing in the first round more than half the time, but did win a board once late on with close wins over fellow Challenge Tour player Scott Williams, Vincent van der Voort and Shaun Wilkinson. The stats indicate that maybe he's been a little bit unlucky in places, but might just not quite have the power scoring game at this level right now, and that while Beaton is definitely declining, he may still have just enough to get through this one, actually being favoured 70/30 by my projections. Danny did get some stage experience through being an associate qualifier on the Euro Tour twice, losing to Jeff Smith in Riesa but whitewashing John Henderson in Jena before losing to Martin Schindler, so it's not as if he is going to be completely new to a big crowd that should favour the other guy.

Is it fair to say that Clayton's had a bit of a down year? I think it is. After a 2021 where he won his first major and also got the Premier League win, he's struggled to go really deep in TV events in 2022, with the exception of the most recent one at Minehead where he got to a semi final, albeit the level of opponents he faced there maybe weren't the greatest. Overall scoring is still top ten, but his results haven't been - only just beating Martin Lukeman then getting close to a free win over de Sousa at the UK Open before going out to Damon Heta, an opening round reverse at Blackpool to Rowby, one and done at Leicester/Dortmund losing to Dimitri and Chizzy, then bowing out at the last sixteen in the Slam to Alan Soutar after winning his group, albeit on leg difference where three players had two wins each. It's not been great at lower levels either, with two semi finals and two quarter finals being the limit of what he could do in Europe, some of those key losses to knock him out in those events being to players you'd think he would have a strong chance of winning. Similar on the Pro Tour - he does have one final, where he lost to Brendan Dolan, but from another eight board wins he couldn't add even so much as a semi final, just adding three further quarter finals. Jonny did at least perform well in the unranked TV events, which is where he's made his name to be fair, with another Premier League playoff appearance and a World Cup final, but those add nothing to your ranking money obviously. The game is still there at a very high level, you just leave yourself thinking whether maybe there could have been a bit more in terms of results and if he's losing too many games he shouldn't be losing. This doesn't look like one of them regardless of who he plays, but a solid veteran still with some upside doesn't feel like the sort of opponent he'd prefer to face.

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