The newest PDC major tournament makes its debut this weekend as the top 16 in the PDC Order Of Merit contest The Masters. The tournament is a seeded knockout format, whereby players are seeded based on their Order Of Merit position and the opening round draw is based on these seedings so 1st seed plays 15th seed, 2nd seed plays 14th and so on. It is the first major PDC event to be held in Edinburgh since the city played host to a Premier League fixture in 2009, it will be interesting to see how the players respond to the Highland centre as a venue.
Phil Taylor comes into this event on the back of his Championship League Darts victory last week as well as his 11th World Grand Prix victory earlier this month. He is a clear favourite this week and rightly so when you look at his performances in 2013 as well as his know liking for being the first name on any new trophies. Less certain for me is how much Taylor is looking towards the World Championship in December, it was the first thing he mentioned in his event after his Grand Prix victory and Taylor’s form has fluctuated during this period in the past few years so he is respected but swerved at the prices.
Van Gerwen will have his supporters this weekend but he has lacked a bit of cutting edge in recent months, his form looks good enough on paper reaching a number of quarter finals or better but he hasn’t picked up a title since June and players sense that he is beatable. Lewis and Barney will fancy their chances of progressing from their half of the draw but neither appeal to me, Lewis is better over longer formats and will probably be looking to Alexandra Palace already, Barney has looked a shell of the player who lit up the Grand Slam last November and wilted alarmingly in Dublin against MVG.
One player stands out for me in bottom half of the draw at the prices and that is ANDY HAMILTON, who is almost consistently underestimated by the layers. He has a style of play that suits these shorter format events and is proven in TV events, he has delivered last 8 finishes as a minimum in most TV events in the last 24 months. He has a nice draw with Thornton up first, whom he has a good recent record against, and then either Huybrechts or Lewis, again players he will not fear.
Taylor will be strongly fancied to sweep all before him in the top half of the draw but it always pays to take him on in the hope of catching him out of form. Wade, Whitlock and Newton would rate as dangers to some but none of the three appeal to me, Wade’s attitude has been a concern in recent months as has Whitlock’s doubling out at crucial times, Newton has struggled to prove he can beat equally ranked players, one player who does appeal as an outside shout is KEVIN PAINTER, he is playing well without results showing this and his major title was won over a similar format in 2011.
With a short format of best of 11 legs being used in the first round, there is a strong possibility of some shock results. Two matches stand out in this respect, Mervyn King looks a good shout to beat Whitlock over the shorter format, he is in need of a strong few months to sustain his top 16 ranking and can get the better of a below par Whitlock. Huybrechts looks a good shout against Lewis, Kim has been in superb form in recent weeks and as much as I think a third title in quick succession is beyond him, I do think he can beat Lewis in their opening round class.
- The PDC Masters Preview (thedartsheet.com)
- 2013 World Grand Prix Darts Preivew (carlothesportsman.wordpress.com)