2022 Players Championship Finals Preview – JP
2022 Players Championship Finals Preview
James had a stellar week at the Grand Slam of Darts last week. The schedule is busy right now and he is back again this week with his 2022 Players Championship Finals preview. Check it out below.
2022 Players Championship Finals
This will be the 15th Players Championship Finals. The tournament has seen seven different champions. Michael van Gerwen is the winning most player with six titles, Phil Taylor had three and one each for Paul Nicholson, Kevin Painter, Gary Anderson, Daryl Gurney and Peter Wright.
The biggest outsider to win was Paul Nicholson back in 2010. That was in the days when there were just 32 players in the tournament, but this was increased to 64 in 2016. The title has only been successfully defended three times and it will not be this year as Peter Wright withdrew to spend time with his wife who is recovering from surgery.
Other players with good records here are Merv King, a two time runner up and one time semi-finalist. Gerwyn Price is a one time runner up and semi-finalist. Dave Chisnall is a former runner up, Adrian Lewis a two time runner up and Jonny Clayton also a former runner up and semi-finalist.
Some Big Guns Yet To Fire
A few names are noticeably missing from the rolls of honour. Grand Slam Winner Michael Smith has never made the semi-finals, James Wade only made one semi-final, Rob Cross has one semi-final. Newer players like Aspinall, Humphries, Cullen, Van den Bergh, De Sousa and Van Duijvenbode have yet to make an impact. One of last weeks big stories, Raymond van Barneveld never made the last four here.
The field is made up of the top 64 players on the Players Championship Order of Merit. The number 1 seed this year is Damon Heta and he is drawn against the 64th seed Ricardo Pietreczko, the number 2 seed plays the 63rd seed and so on.
The OOM looks a bit different to the PDC World Rankings as some players decided to not play in all 30 events. MVG for example, Gary Anderson, Jonny Clayton and Michael Smith missed out on a few for various reasons and as a result we get, in motor racing parlance, a mixed up grid.
Strange Early Matchups
World number 1 Gerwyn Price is only the 8th seed, MVG the 22nd seed, Jonny Clayton 24th and Gary Anderson 27th. We get some strange first round match ups because of it. The number 1 seed has only won five of the fourteen previous championships, three times for MVG and once for Taylor and Anderson.
As usual the winner is rarely a surprise, apart from Paul Nicholson who was the 21st seed in a field of 32. Ten winners have been seeded in the top 6 and the only winners seed lower where Paul Nicholson (21st of 32), Kevin Painter (18th of 32), Daryl Gurney (16th of 64) and MVG (18th of 64).
One thing to remember, especially when considering some of the outsiders, is that the OOM is compiled over 30 floor events, but the big money finals is a televised stage event. The qualifiers are played in sports halls with no spectators and the finals on a stage with a big crowd. Many of the lesser known players have very little stage experience and this is where the bigger names have an advantage.
2022 Players Championship Finals: Top 8 Seeds
1. Damon Heta
Finished top of the pile after a very consistent run in the qualifying events, winning twice. He might do better if the finals were played on the floor as his record in the televised majors in 2022 is poor. He won the World Cup alongside Simon Whitlock but that is a very different event to the other TV events and his record in them sees 17 matches played and just 7 won.
The Aussie has a reasonable draw but with the first two rounds played in a best of 11 leg format, shocks are possible. He should face the winner of Rydz vs. Razma in the second round and that isn’t a straightforward proposition. He is in decent form, winning seven of his last ten.
2. Luke Humphries
The 27 year old has had a very good season, winning four Euro Tour titles and a Players Championship qualifier. He has won six of his last ten matches but is still looking for his first TV major title. Humphries came close at this venue in last year’s UK Open, losing the final to James Wade. I like his draw. He is in the 3rd quarter, and I would be surprised if he doesn’t make the quarter final given the players in his way. Very much on the short list.
3. Nathan Aspinall
Another player who wins a lot of matches and his form on TV this year is good, reaching two major finals including last week’s Grand Slam. He won his first and only major title in this venue, winning the 2019 UK Open. He has won six of his last ten and he was disappointing in last week’s final. Aspinall said he was just exhausted after hard quarter and semi-finals, but he’ll face a punishing schedule this week if he is to make another final.
Another negative is that he has never gone beyond the second round in four appearances. He is also in the same quarter as MVG, something of a nemesis for him, and it also has players like Danny Noppert, James Wade, Josh Rock, Michael Smith and Dimitri van den Bergh. Tough group.
4. Dirk van Duijvenbode
A two time winner in Players Championship events in 2022 but his form in the majors is a bit disappointing for a player of his calibre. He made the finals of the World Series finals, but that is a glorified exhibition event. Dirk made the quarter finals of the Matchplay and semi-final of the European Championships, a poor return for such a heavy scorer. He does have a decent draw however and a good run is possible.
5. Rob Cross
Another two time winner in Players Championship events in 2022. He is in the same quarter as Dirk but his path to the quarter final is harder. He has a tricky Dutch player in the first round and then the winner of the Anderson vs. Clemens match. There is also the heavy scoring Dobey and Schindler in his vicinity. He was semi-finalist on debut but hasn’t gone beyond the 3rd round in the last four years.
6. Michael Smith
Will be on a lot of shortlists now that he has bagged that elusive first TV major. Are the floodgates about to open? If they do it will be against a tournament record which has seen him only go beyond the third round once, when he reached the quarter final in 2020. He is also in the ‘Quarter of Death’ and whoever gets through that will have earned it.
7. Dave Chisnall
Now, officially the best player never to have won a major. It will be interesting to see if Chisnall gets anything out of Smith’s win at the Grand Slam. They were the two best players never to have won a biggy and Chizzy might just think, ‘if he can do it, why can’t I?’. He has had a better year, picking up a Players Championship title and a Euro Tour title.
Chisnall wins a lot of matches but goes AWOL in the latter stages of the big ones. He was the runner up in 2016 but since then, has not progressed beyond the second round. He is in the third quarter, which is not the hardest, but he is in the bottom half, which is quite tough.
8. Gerwyn Price
The world number 1 didn’t play in the all the qualifiers so is only the 8th seed. He is in the first quarter along with Jonny Clayton, Ross Smith and Damon Heta, but he will be the favourite to come through. He must be getting a bit frustrated as he is playing very well, very heavy, consistent scoring but he has lost four TV quarter finals, one semi-final and two finals.
The only TV title he has won is the World Series finals, a not very prestigious event. He should be there or thereabouts again but if he couldn’t get the job done in his beloved Grand Slam, maybe this just isn’t his year. He was runner up here in 2019 and a semi-finalist in 2020.
Best Of The Rest
History suggests that the winner will come from the group above, but there are other players in the draw who are live chances.
The most obvious is six time winner, Michael van Gerwen. He has already won the Premier League, the World Matchplay, World Grand Prix, three Euro Tour events and two Players Championships. Not bad really. He has lost four of his last ten matches and there are players in better form. MVG is also in the quarter of death.
If he beats Ryan Meikle in the first round he is likely face Josh Rock in the second. He narrowly beat Rock in the Grand Slam, but Rock is the very last player you want to face in a best of 11 leg match. Michael Smith could then be his next opponent and he will get a tough quarter final opponent should he get that far. Taking time off does has had consequences in terms of where he is in the draw.
Barney In Form
Fellow Dutch Master, Raymond van Barneveld is in top form, winning nine of his last ten matches and reaching his first ranked major semi-final since 2017 last weekend. He has never gone beyond the quarter final in this event.
James Wade is another player in good form, winning eight of his last ten matches but like Barney, his tournament record is not great, and he is also in the quarter of death.
Josh Rock has to be considered as a possible winner despite his lack of experience. He is taking to these big events like the proverbial duck to water. He does have a very tough draw and while nobody will look forward to facing him, he faces a very tough quarter.
Smudger Playing Well
Ross Smith picked up the European Championship last month at odds of 151.00, but he is just the 56th seed for this one. His recent form is very good. He has played 12 TV matches in 2022 and won 8. His confidence is high, but he has been a streaky player in the past and it will be interesting if he can keep his good run going. He is drawn to meet Gerwyn Price in the third round and while he is not in the quarter of death, he faces a dangerous young Dutch player in the first round, probably the out of form Jonny Clayton in the second, and then Price.
Danny Noppert is having a good year in the TV events in 2022. He has won a Players Championship title, a Euro Tour title and the UK Open at this very venue. He has played 27 matches on TV in 2022 and won 20, so he has racked up a lot of experience. Of course, he is another player in the very tough fourth quarter.
The tournament is played at Butlins Minehead, a seaside resort tucked away on the Somerset coast in southwest England. There are two players with home field advantage. Gary Anderson and Ryan Searle. Somerset resident Anderson won this in 2014 and was runner up in 2011. He also won The UK Open at this venue in 2018.
Searle was born in Somerset, but now lives in nearby Devon. He had his best run in a major championship here last year when he reached the final and he reached the 6th round of this year’s UK Open here as well. These two players have to do a lot of travelling to get to the vast majority of events they play in, and it is a little luxury to have a tournament on their doorstep for once.
Another player from this neck of the woods was Justin Pipe and he reached three Players Championship semi-finals. In the last twelve years there has been a local player in a semi-final or final on six occasions. A good omen for Anderson and Searle?
2022 Players Championship Finals: Ante Post Selections
It has been a big year for Cool Hand Luke. Four Euro Tour titles has given him a winning mentality. His tournament record isn’t good, but he did reach his only major final in this venue in 2021. He was a semi-finalist last weekend at the Grand Slam and a quarter finalist at the European Championship before that.
Luke has also become a first time dad in 2022 and is benefiting from the nappy factor. His draw is much kinder than many of the other fancied runners and I hope that he can do better than my selections in the recent majors.
2022 Players Championship Finals Tip: 1 point e/w Luke Humphries to win the Players Championship @ 15.00 generally available
Like Luke Humphries, Dirk has been reasonably lucky with the draw and his path to the quarter finals is not the worst. He is the heaviest 180 hitter in the game, something which helped Daryl Gurney win his 2018 title.
Doubles win matches but 180s give you opportunities to hit more doubles. I am not 100% convinced of his mental strength but I like his game and he is getting used to having good runs in majors these days, having had a semi and quarter final already in 2021.
2022 Players Championship Finals Tip: 1 point e/w Dirk van Duijvenbode to win the Players Championship @ 19.00 with Skybet
A preview for all 32 of Fridays first round matches will follow later and I will be covering this event match by match, up to the quarter finals.