The Masters, Elite Event or Terrestrial Runner’s Up Prize?
The PDC season opener suffers from formulaic predictability and a certain empty feeling, could it be raised up to something more?
The Masters, in its seven holdings, has become the traditional curtain-raiser to the PDC darts season. The event, for an elite top 16 players, gives free to air tv coverage to the game’s major stars and sets the table for the upcoming twelve months.
Yesterday Micheal Van Gerwen claimed his fifth consecutive title with a convincing 10-5 win over James Wade in the final. In truth, he was never troubled during the event. iTV4 again put together a decent production and darts in 2019 can be said to be truly underway.
The Masters, however, is sandwiched between the end of World Championships and the start of The Premier League and would not feature on many players priority list. To be fair The Masters showcases the very best players in the PDC system and is played over a single weekend. The relatively short formats ensure that games are quickfire. It may well be that Barry Hearn views the event as a terrestrial appetite builder or gateway tournament to recruit or covert more and more fans to the PDC brand.
Yet, The Masters feels empty and is certainly missing the edge of a ranking event or prestigious title with history or a unique twist. With MVG cleaning up, with ease, and very few matches going against expectation there is a danger of this event becoming stale and even boring. One of the best matches in this year’s event only took place due to Gary Anderson being injured and former Lakeside champion Stephen Bunting being drafted in.
Although terrestrial audiences are less exposed to darts than SKY & others even they will tire of the same dish reheated in the end. MVG is admired but not yet loved and what can appear as an unchallenged romp will have its limit. In addition, only two matches went to a deciding leg, both in the first round, and the vast majority were won by more than 11/15 were won by at least 3 clear legs.
The BBC screened late-season showcase, The Champions League, has the unusual feature of a group stage. Perhaps the PDC/iTV4 could introduce some element of variety or unique quality into The Masters. Ideas previously floated include increasing the length of each leg to 701 or using a short set-based format.
In the meantime, we have learned little from the 2019 edition. MVG started the season much the same as he has the last few, Anderson is susceptible to back injury, Ian White must find the solution to his TV form if he is to progress any further, James Wade is in pretty good shape and this type of event suits him, Peter Wright is struggling to maintain his form and Adrian Lewis is looking stronger. This was known to most already.
The Masters may also have confirmed that the second group of the PDC elite, Cullen, Mensur, Chizzy and even Rob Cross need to develop ways to regularly upset the established order in the way, Daryl Gurney has managed recently.
Without unpredictability, and or a different angle, The Masters may be deemed an irrelevance by more than just darts devotees.