Tag Archives: Darts

Larry Butler: When The Eagle Landed

NOMINATING  a TV major winner, who returned to reach the final of the Winmau World Masters twenty-one years later, as an ‘Unsung Hero’ may seem a bit of a stretch, but the label can certainly be applied to the USA’s Larry Butler.

An ‘Immortal’ on the other hand, seems fair enough, The Bald Eagle, now 63-years-of-age, and back playing after a severe heart attack laid him low in 2018, has a remarkable winning record and longevity that can only be matched, perhaps, by Paul Lim. 

Butler first appeared on the steel tip scene in 1992 qualifying for the BDO World Championships in the year made immortal by the Taylor – Gregory final. That year’s field was immensely strong and the American lost out to Dennis Priestley.

These were tough times for the sport, with declining TV coverage and the newly formed WDC (PDC) struggling to gain momentum. The Ohio man retreated to the US and concentrated on soft-tip – claiming back-to-back (Bullshooter) World titles in ‘92 and ‘93 – only to return  to the UK as part of the PDC’s inaugural World Championship in 1994 and was very unfortunate to be eliminated, in the group stage, on leg difference. 

Within months Dayton’s tungsten titan was to write himself into the darts history books at the inauguration of another PDC flagship event, the World Matchplay.

The unheralded Butler made it through the first two rounds with relative ease, but his defeat of Jocky Wilson in the Qtr-finals the signal that he was a serious threat for the title. Wilson was playing well enough to have removed Alan Warriner-Little and Peter Evison in his previous two matches and yet Butler saw ‘the wee man’ off with relative ease.

Shayne Burgess also failed to halt the US thrower in the semi-final, with Butler narrowly missing a 9-darter along the way, there was only one man who could prevent him from lifting that famous trophy. That man was, however, Dennis Priestley.


Now, if they were being honest, a final match-up between these two would not have been the promoters’ or the TV people’s choice. Watch it today however and it’s a belter. Two serious and careful men, at or near the top of their game, giving a demonstration of methodical darts at its best. The nerves are on display from the very start as each man knows that the other can not be given an inch.

Despite missed doubles and Butler breaking in leg three, The Menace hit back with a 124 finish to keep things all square. Priestley then produced a spell of increased scoring power and edged into a 7-3 lead. Surely the debutant would falter?

Remarkably Butler hit back with five legs on the spin and moved into the lead. For the only time I can remember the commentary team admitted that Dennis had become rushed and was struggling to refind his successful rhythm. After 20 legs had been played Larry was ahead 11-9 and had won 8 from the last 10 legs played.

At 13-11, the pivotal moment came. Butler had gone off the boil and Dennis was swiftly down to a finish. With only one leg between them surely the more experienced man would come through? Yet, it was he who faltered. The Menace missed nine darts to take the leg and Butler produced a superb single dart, at an obscured double eight, to extend his lead and within a very few minutes he had claimed the two additional legs needed and the title was his by 16 to 12!

Tragically, for the US player at least, the game of darts was at such a low ebb that there was no Professional Tour to sustain a North American player at that time meaning that trying to earn a living, by travelling to Europe for the few TV events, was unsustainable and slowly but surely Butler drifted away from the top of the PDC game. A return to soft-tip saw him crowned World Champion for the third time in 1997 but other highlights were few and far between.

After those lean years, what is now known as the Pro Tour began to develop in earnest and a now 50+-year-old Butler made an attempt at it in 2008/9. Although he made only a minor impact he did record a 9-darter during a PDC event in Las Vegas and reached a quarter-final.

What was not noticed by UK darts officianadoes however was that Butler had started winning again in America. His record in the American Darts Organisation (ADO) events was outstanding, even more so for a ‘senior’ player. In 2010/11 he scored over a dozen event wins and seemed never far away from any U.S title he contested.

Over the next few years, he became, along with Paul Lim, what can be described as a hybrid darts professional: Soft-tip or steel tip, domestic or international, regardless of code. A real “have darts will travel” journeyman. Suddenly, the winning habit and all the work and ‘practice’ he was getting came together again. The Bald Eagle returned to the mainstream in a big way.

2015 had started quietly as Butler, along with Darin Young, represented the USA in the PDC’s World Cup of Darts. He returned to the USA and picked up the winning habit again immediately before returning to the UK where he produced a run of results few would have believed in advance.

First Butler stormed through the BDO field to qualify for one of their places in the PDC’s Grand Slam of Darts (Yes, a PDC World Matchplay Champion qualified for BDO spot!) his last three wins were over Glen Durrant, Wayne Warren and Scott Waites. 

Brimming with confidence he then took his place at the Winmau World Masters where he again defeated Waites and added Scott Mitchell and the scalps Martin Adams. Playing from the last 272, reached the final. This time Durrant denied him the full fairytale. But it was not over for the now 55-year-old.

Two days later Butler bagged the English leg of the ADO World Masters before moving on to Turkey and claiming a Quarterfinal spot in the WDF World Cup and the Turkish leg of the ADO Masters series. 

Returning to England to take up his Grand Slam place (possibly a little tired!) he did not progress from his initial group. Incredibly, he was still not finished, he returned home to claim three titles in a row before taking his place in the (BDO) World Championships at the Lakeside for the first time since 1992, reaching the last 16.

Although his 2015/16 efforts were noted at the time, they were not given the attention due. The Bald Eagle was flying between various continents while switching between codes, formats, or even types of darts. He was winning everywhere, against any class of opposition, it was a stunning run that should be credited as a blueprint for (particularly non-UK) players in the modern era.

Although Larry’s form stayed at a very high level in the US and some soft tip events, the demands on his older constitution saw a decline in major and TV results after 2016. Disaster struck when he suffered a heart attack after returning to Ohio following the World Cup in 2018. Fortunately, after multiple operations he made a full recovery and was back playing by the Autumn of that year.

Although not quite back to winning ways the remarkable 63-year-old  was still reaching qtrs, semis and finals up until the spring of 2020 when Covid-19  forced him to rest his arrows once more. Almost beyond even Butler’s superhuman efforts he was back and reaching the semi-final of the Cherry bomb event in Florida last month!

It would be a pleasure to see a healthy Butler back at his best and perhaps in the UK for a Matchplay or World Seniors welcome and acknowledgment of his huge contribution to all forms of our game.

Could the Butler do it, again?

—–ENDS—–

@JRLott2

Mark Webster: Diamond SE

​A new mark Webster dart always serves to remind us just how good Mark is and what he managed to contribute to the game at such an early stage. Webby was Lakeside World Champion and twice third in the PDC version and provided a welcome contrast to the perception of dart players.

Mark Webster’s weapons of choice have undergone a radical reformation over the past few years. The 2008 World Champion began his career using a very simple tungsten barrel with a snub nose and a few grooves on the lower sections. His latest weapons are about as far away as you can get. Winmau have leveraged much of their technical know-how into this elegant but unfussy dart.

General:

This latest edition has just been released, for the 2021 collection, by Marks’ longtime manufacture. Two sections of ‘black diamond’ grip have been added to the dart on either side of the lightly grooved centre section. This addition has transformed the dart.

Open the Box:

The three, 90%, tungsten barrels come tucked into a branded point protector and a colour coordinated set – up of Vectra stems (3) and Prism Alpha flights. Black steel points are supplied and fitted.

Testing feedback:

The difference, from previous Webster signature models, is remarkable. The revamp gives the appearance of real muscle while retaining their precision instrument performance. The ‘black diamond’ grip sections give almost every type of thrower a way to get the most out of them. You can even use the two sections as a guide of where not to hold them! The simple barrel design still does its no-fuss job but the new grip zones seem to add assured confidence that was not there previously.

Set-Up & Durability:

We have always found the diamond range to be exceptionally durable and, for some players, the more worn in they are the better they’re liked. With the supplied set up Mark’s dart suits most conventional throwers. Rear holders added more tapered stems and a smaller sized std flight to get a less direct flight path.

Snapshot:

The Mark Webster (2021) signature dart is a premium dart with a no-nonsense look and feel. There are no unnecessary cosmetics and, as a result, the dart is as reliable as it is impressive. They can be used to great effect by a wide cross-section of throwers although we expect that they will prove exceptionally popular with methodical players who like to power score and not mess about. At around £55 they are good value and slightly less than some premier models.

Marks: 9/10

The marks ranged from 8.5 to 9.5 for functionality, looks, performance, and value. 9/10 seems a fair result for this excellent addition to the 2021 player market.

——–ENDS——-
Originally published in Darts World Magazine (573)

Testing by: AIM:180 Ltd​

RAZR’s Edge Review

​NON-player darts are often the hidden gems of major manufacturer launches. Attention is focused on the latest Peter Wright (or other star players) dart or the most recent generation of a legendary design. The 2021 Red Dragon launch proved no exception.

  • Product: Steel Tip Darts
  • Brand: Red Dragon
  • Materials: 95% Tungsten
  • Dimensions: 50.8mm x 6.25mm
  • Weight: 22g RRP: £42.90


The Welsh brand has invested a great deal of their innovative player-generated know-how (and some style) into darts that are technically excellent, but that otherwise may have been ignored. The Razor Edge ZX-95 is one such model:

General:

The ZX-95 edition has been released to top the popular Razor Edge range. The 95 refers to the tungsten level which is markedly higher than the other Razor options. This variation provides a dense feel for those who like to go straight for the target.

Open the Box:

The three, 95% tungsten barrels come tucked into a point protector and with a colour coordinated setup of Nitro-Tech stems (3) and Hardcore standard-shaped flights (3). Black steel points are supplied and fitted.

Testing feedback:

The difference in these darts from previous editions is easily noticeable. The revamp gives them a feeling of precision and directness while retaining the feeling that they will never move in the action of throwing. The ‘Razor Edge’ grip sections give an aggressive 4/5 level grip which every who is light in the hold will get plenty out of them. The simple, slim, barrel design still does its no-fuss job but the higher tungsten content changes the angle of flight for some throw styles.

Set-Up & Durability:

High tungsten content darts are always highly durable and with such a distinct grip it is unlikely that you will wear these out. The coating also seems resilient in comparison with some. The supplied setups suit direct throwers very well indeed. Some players may prefer a less stiff flight and stem combo. The grip being tilted away from the point means they are not as taxing on flights as we imagined.

Snapshot:

This Razor Edge ZX-95 dart is a perfect example of the non-payer dart. All the tech and all the styling, but not the premium price tag. There are plenty of useful features as well as simple, classy cosmetics. ZX-95s can be used by a variety of throwers although we expect that they will be most popular with a dart by dart (Peter Wright style) player, who holds the barrel very lightly indeed. At under £40 they are superb value for a highly-styled 95% tungsten dart with multi-grip zones.

Marks: 8.5/10

Aggressive grip and 95% tungsten are polarising features on a dart. So to average out at 8.5/10 over functionality, looks, performance, and value is very impressive indeed. Yet again there’s a hidden gem with no player name on the barrel. Look out for others in every launch.

——ENDS——

Original review appeared at dartsworld.com
http://www.aim180.org

Price Dominates Anderson to lift title

Gerwyn Price won the William Hill World Darts Championship and became the new world number one after defeating Gary Anderson with an electrifying display in Sunday’s final at London’s Alexandra Palace. 

Price prevailed 7-3 with a dominant performance against two-time winner Anderson to lift the Sid Waddell Trophy, claim the £500,000 winner’s cheque and become the first ever Welsh PDC World Champion.

The triumph also saw Price replace Michael van Gerwen at the top of the PDC Order of Merit, bringing an end to the Dutchman’s seven-year reign as world number one. 

The damage was done early in the final as the Welsh star won five of the first six sets thanks to some ruthless finishing, leaving Anderson unable to recover despite Price squandering several opportunities to wrap up the victory before finally claiming glory.

“This means everything to me. It means the world,” said Price, who averaged 100.08 in the superb success.

“I bombed numerous opportunities to win it towards the end but I knew that I had put myself in such a good position that I would have another chance. Gary missed to give it me and I’m glad I took it. 

“I’ve never felt pressure like that in my life. It was so tough to hit that winning double but the feeling after doing it is so difficult to explain. I’m the World Champion; it’s unbelievable. 

“I’m proud to be world number one too. It’s probably even tougher to achieve that than it is to become World Champion. To manage both is incredible for me.”

Anderson missed four darts to take the opening set 3-0 and Price punished the Scot by claiming the next three legs to snatch an early advantage. 

The Welshman took the first leg in set two, but a 180 followed by a 128 checkout sparked a three leg burst that saw Anderson level the match.

Price won the third set 3-1 with 12,13 and 14-dart legs, shrugging off a 170 checkout from Anderson, before finishes of 84 and 120 helped the former professional rugby player take set four by the same margin.

Checkouts of 83, 97 and 76 saw Price continue an incredible run of finishes to open up a three set lead.

He then produced the best set of darts in World Championship history when he took out 100 for an 11-dart leg, 161 for a 12-darter and double 12 to go out in ten darts, after missing the bed to complete a nine-darter – posting an astonishing set average of 136.64.

Back-to-back double top finishes saw Price take his success rate on that target to 13 landed from as many attempts, but when he finally missed the bed Anderson pounced to take the seventh set in a decider.

Price moved 6-2 ahead when he landed double top to win the fifth leg in set eight, before claiming the following two legs to move within a leg of glory – but he went on to miss nine match darts across two legs to allow Anderson to steal the set and stay in the contest.

The Scot punished Price for more missed doubles to make it five legs on the spin, but Price came from behind to claim the title on double five after Anderson had missed six darts to keep his hopes alive.

“Getting beat in the final is disappointing but I’ll give myself a pat on the back for getting this far,” said Anderson, who has moved up five places to eighth in the Order of Merit.

“What I’ve done over the last few weeks has been a big bonus for me. I started the final alright but I started to struggle and you can’t do that against players like Gerwyn.”

The triumph saw Price become the tenth PDC World Champion and the first to have achieved the feat as a product of Qualifying School, having earned his professional Tour Card in 2014 – just two weeks after Van Gerwen’s spell as world number one had begun.

He succeeds Peter Wright as World Champion and also leaps above the Scot and Van Gerwen to top the PDC Order of Merit.

William Hill World Darts Championship

Sunday January 3

Final

Gerwyn Price 7-3 Gary Anderson 

Set Scores: 3-2, 1-3, 3-1, 3-1, 3-1, 3-0, 2-3, 3-2, 2-3, 3-2


Words: PDC

PIC: L lustig (PDC)

Unsung Heroes – Tony Brown

For the revamped darts world debut edition we needed a special player, who has not had the credit they deserve, a follower suggested Tony Brown. We were then delighted when his daughter popped up in enthusiastic support.

Tony claimed the first Dart World KO Cup in Oldham during 1977 and retained it the following year. It seems fitting that Darts World acknowledged him in the first of their new editions (Issue 570)!

​MEMORIES, good days, bad days. They’ll be with me always.” The famous lyrics of ‘Knowing Me Knowing You’, the biggest No.1 hit of 1977. It was the year that Abba dominated the music charts. Agnetha, Anni-Frid, Benny, and Björn were the biggest smash. But, in sporting terms, a new hero was born.

In a smoky, stuffy studio in Leeds, the now legendary Indoor League uncovered a winning star in Tony Brown. It was the stuff of arrows folklore. TV commentating gurus Dave Lanning and Sid Waddell calling the shots and producing a show fronted by Fred Trueman. This show had a notably northern, working-class focus, and featured pub games such as darts, bar billiards, shove ha’penny, skittles, and arm-wrestling. Trueman anchored the program with a pint of bitter and his pipe to hand, and signed off each week with his catchphrase, “Ah’ll sithee”. In that year of ’77, Brown saw ‘em all off as the Indoor League champion…and a fabulous career was off and running.

Born in Dover just as World War II was in its last throes of bitter battle, Brown was the original bridesmaid of the board, so close but so far to glory in a glittering period in the limelight. Not surprisingly in an era of huge characters with the likes of Eric Bristow, John Lowe, Alan Evans, Jocky Wilson, and Leighton Rees, that he didn’t manage to steal the biggest headlines. But he got very near to. Now, 75, Brown made a huge contribution in dart’s first glorious era. In the late 70s and early 80s, he competed with the greats of the time and often vested them. Tony claimed the first darts World KO Cup in Oldham during 1977, it was a tough event with county play-off s producing half the last 16 who then played off against an invited eight ‘star’ names.

As you can see from the June 1979 Darts World story Brown defeated John Lowe in that first final, remarkably retaining his title the following year. On an individual level, Brown claimed the Indoor League and British Open titles in 1977 and ’79 respectively. He was placed third in the World Championships in 1979 and 1980 as well as being World Masters Runner up in the former. Darting contemporary Linda Duffy remembers him fondly stating:

“What a great player, too often overshadowed by Eric and John.”


Unusually, it was in multiplayer or Team events where Brown really showed his real talent. Winning the World Pairs, Europe Cup, and World Cup as part of a very strong England team. But, in no way was Brown a weaker member of such an illustrious outfit. He won the Europe Cup singles event and was third in the World Cup equivalent.

Tony Brown collecting another winner’s cheque

Brown could also entertain, according to Doug McCarthy he was one of only two players who could stand at the oche with a dart in each hand, throw them simultaneously and get them both within the treble ring. A useful pub party piece not doubt! Brown was one of the founders, along with Dave Whitcombe and Lowey, of the PDPA and as such played a role in the establishment of the WDC/PDC that plays such a strong role in the modern game. After stepping back from the playing circuit in the mid80s Tony reappeared 25 years later, then aged 64, in the Dover Darts League singles. He reached the semi-finals, losing to the eventual winner.

Tony was also spotted, according to many darting archives, making a one-off appearance in the PDC in 2010 at the Australian Players Championship, however, this may be an urban myth. His daughter assures us that her father did not feature in such an event. She should know, after all, she has been with her dad in many great darting moments including the lovely one of the ‘Darts Family Brown’ featured in our 92nd Issue in July 1980.

The darts family Brown from Darts World 570



Kelly admits:
“I am still Kelly Brown, the baby in the photo (above) except I’m now 40! “My dad is now a grandad to six and a great grandad to one. He lives in Dover and has a lovely partner, Carol.

“His favourite player now is Michael Smith because his style and natural ability remind him of how he used to play. “Until recently he played in the local league but does not play any darts now.

“It’s really great to be able to read about my dad’s darts history as I was only a baby at the time so have no memories of my own. It’s good to see him recognised for his talent.”

In a sport littered by legends, Brown is right up there with the greatest, just a tad more unsung than those giants. He wasn’t quite, as Abba stated, Winner, Takes It All.

But he won our hearts and respect.

——ENDS——
Featured images: Darts World 570
Body text image: Darts World archive​

A.I.M: Manufacturers Championship 2019

Who builds the better team? Who makes the best signings? Who improves & develops players? Who is the best Manufacturer / Sponsor?

outline and tungsten

For 2019 A.I.M are presenting a simplified Manufacturers Championship version that should be interesting but not over techie or insider nonsense.

A.I.M use the PDC ranking events as a base. In each event, those who reach the Qtr Final or better will score points for their dart supplier/sponsor. Winner will get 10 points, runner / up 5, Semi 3 and Qtrs 1. In the case of televised major,  such as the upcoming UK Open, this will be doubled. For The World Championships, the multiplier will be 2.5. As an amendment, we add the BDO majors for the overall table.

Early Season Skirmishes

The first four ranking events of the season, Pro Tours 1-4, feature the return of a classic dart brand and a rebalancing between the other big names. Another classic brand/manufacturer took a bit of a beating.

  1. Red Dragon (38)
  2. Target (26)
  3. Unicorn (24)
  4. XQMax (21)
  5. Harrows (15)
  6. Bulls (6)
  7. Winmau (4)
  8. Cosmo (1)
  9. Powercore (1)

Red Dragon managed to head the table overall through scoring in every event with a mix of players. Price has moved up a level whilst Wright, Hendo and Clayton all performed well and scored for the team.

Red Dragon Logo

RD excelling in the constructors’ championship?

Target proved hit or miss with Dave Chisnall ensuring a highlight early on while on other days they did poorly, Ricky Evans has stormed through to provide high quality back up. XQ Max still features well with 21 points (two wins) from the four events. This excellent effort is tempered with the fact that all points were gained through a single player. MVG is clearly carrying this vehicle. Unicorn managed to spread their effort across more players including some newcomers including Harry Ward ( Gavin Carlin may well push them over the top as his darts look very like Unicorn Grippers to me!) and in every event, they will also benefit from the return of Gary Anderson.

Harrows made a welcome return to the higher ranks. Their retention of Glenn Durrant ensures they have another iconic name and their 15 points were all gained by the debut-making northeasterner. Josh Payne may also add to Harrows success and represent the younger generation. Bulls continued there recent success with James Wattinema claiming five points with a final appearance. Lees established or smaller brands have yet to make much of a dent in the 2019 table. Cosmo nicked points through Steve West’s efforts and Powercore look to have done well by snapping up Ryan Searle. Perhaps the most surprising was the paltry 10 points picked up by Winmau. Merv King gained them 3 handy points, another was gained by Matt Edgar who despite not having an official dart supplier uses a Winmau Navigator set.

E68FFFAE-B024-4518-9A06-0C3E7190AF88

Harrows returned to the PDC in style.

 Transfers / Signings Activity & Gossip.

Recent gossip about Adrian Lewis leaving Target seems to have died down. His end of season rally in 2018 may well have reminded them of his value. It remains to be seen whether Harrows decide to back up their outfit with another UK / European player or two. Winmau clearly needs a shot in the arm. Their main player roster looks a little one dimensional and although none of them should be written off they do look a little vulnerable to a changing of the guard. Gurney carrying the new generation banner almost alone seems tough. Nathan Aspinall’s move to Target should not surprise anyone as they seem very keen to add proven young talent to their stable, even if it is riskier than their previous ‘darting galacticos’ strategy. Unicorn look a little vulnerable in depth terms. Their team are performing very well but Wade needs to be ber very careful, Gary Anderson seems injury prone and Jelle Klaasen is totally out of sorts. If they can find a star name to prise away from elsewhere to join them it should not be a surprise. Look out for smaller companies or those from the Far East making an impact again soon. In recent years they have been very successful it seems unlikely that this would simply stop. Powercore’s gamble on Ryan Searle, for example, looks a fine bet.

Whether the major companies attempt to poach Clemens, Searle et al may worth keeping an eye on. Do Evo, Powercore, and others, have the reach or ability to develop? Are the contracts solid enough to ensure they get the benefits of their risk/investment?

 

 

The Iceman Joins The Weekenders Club! Price Claims Back to Back Pro Tours.

Winning a PDC Pro Tour event is seriously tough. Players who win back to back Pro Tours over the same weekend are, almost without exception, or soon will be dominant champions of the game. This weekend Gerwen Price added his name to a very elite club.

Latest member of ‘The Weekenders’ club. Price claimed two title from two events.
Pic: PDC

The “Weekenders Club” now has a dozen members and requires its members to win back to back events during the same Pro Tour weekend (or equivalent).

Adrian Lewis (1) founded the club in 2005. At 20 years of age, he won back to back Scottish Pro Tours over one weekend. Phil Taylor (2) unusually not the first, joined soon after claiming both titles in a Dutch doubleheader. Typically of “The Power”, he went on to repeat the feat at least once in each of the next eight years. In 2008 Taylor did the double 3 times and in 2009 he went better with four back to back weekends. Finally, in 2009, a third member joined! Robert Thornton (3) claimed a couple of Scottish Pro Tours over the same weekend. Just to prove it was not a fluke Thornton repeated the trick but it took him till 2014!

In 2010 Wez Newton (5) claimed a unique treble. In addition to back to back Pro Tours in Barnsley, Newton had also claimed his place in the Grand Slam of Darts by winning through the 250+ field on Friday night. This three-hander is unlikely to be repeated. Mervyn King (4) had joined the club earlier in the year by claiming two PLayer Champs. King often starts the Pro Tour well but this may have been his best effort. 2011 featured Gary Anderson (6) claiming his right to join the “Weekenders Club”. His dominant spell over Pro Tour events during this time meant the only surprise was it had taken so long.

cropped-philtaylor-bullet-dart-pic.jpg
“The Power” Completed “The Weekender” 8 years in a row including four times in 2009

Two new members joined in 2012 with Dave Chisnall (7) & Barney (8) getting in on the act. It is surprising that it had taken RVB more than five years to claim two in a row over a weekend. He had had seriously good spells before. Chizzy was simply expanding on a superb first year on the PDC Tour.

2013 featured an anomaly, Jamie Caven (9) claimed players champs 3 & 4. “Jabba” has a huge talent but had not previously threatened elite clubs such as this. He is the only member not to have featured in at least one major final and or be ranked in the top ten. It is, therefore, a remarkable effort. This year also marked MVG (10) crashing through the door. It seems no coincidence that this was also the first year since 2005 that Phil Taylor did not record the weekend double. In 2014 Robert Thornton showed his return was complete by repeating his 2009 effort.

MVG Gurn Away
The Green Machine. MVG alone
has completed a 3- event
Pro Tour “Weekender”.

Three events weekends were now part of the regular calendar and, after missing out the previous year, MVG quickly claimed UK Qualifiers 2 & 3 over a three-event weekend. Lewis also claimed two from three in a throwback to his 2005 efforts. Two from three is not the same however as two back to back and should not gain membership to the club! Typically, MVG soon claimed a record of his own. He cleared up on a three-event stint in 2016. Three Pro Tours in three back to back days (although they were midweek) puts MVG  in a class of his own. 

58ADF03B-3254-4D42-905B-EA162AAFFCEB
Snakebite claimed 2 out of 3 on a Pro Tour weekend but no back to back. “Weekender Club” Access denied! Pic: L Lustig / PDC

No new member joined in 2017, in fact, no one claimed back to back Pro Tours at all. Peter Wright claimed two from three, over one weekend, early in the season getting close. 2018 proved more welcoming MVG repeated the effort twice,  Gary Anderson reminded everyone he could still do it and the superb Krysztof Rajatski (11) claimed back to back titles without even possessing a Tour Card. The BDO World Master had slipped up at Q School and was reliant on other performances and missing tour card holders to even get in the draw. Thus, as a non-seed, he could claim an unprecedented triumph.

Gerwyn Price (12) now completes the twelve players who have pulled off this difficulty feat. With the ever increasing depth of ability, within the PDC, the club is likely to remain exclusive!

Who will join next and complete the Bakers Dozen?


The Pro Tour Revolution Continues.

In 2018 AIM suggested that the removal of entry fees, for the Pro Tour level of professional darts, together with the increases in early stage prize money, would revolutionise the game. It appears we were right!

Nathan Aspinall

Nathan Aspinall – Claimed his first Pro Tour Title in 2018

A quick glance at the results from this week’s first Pro Tour events might suggest to you that all is normal and nothing much changes. MVG wins one event & Dave Chisnall the second. So far so much the same. Yet you don’t have to look much further to see significant change. Day 1 featured Scott Baker reaching the semifinals at the first attempt. Well, there are often good one-off performances you might say. Agreed, but, Harry Ward another brand new tour card holder, also reached the quarterfinals. At least six of the last sixteen are outside the top 32. Many other new or lesser ranked players won multiple games and got off to solid starts Gavin Carlin being another example. Although Day 2 looked a little more conventional in terms of name recognition many, such as Robert Thornton are currently out of the top echelon. Change is upon the Pro Tour and folks had better adjust.

MVG Gurn Away

The Green Machine. MVG claimed another Pro Tour title.

The reasons for this are three-fold and relatively obvious. First is the shear proven talent level in the field. With a cursory glance through the field 45 or more players have reached at least the final of a Pro Tour or have done so at a televised major event! More than one in three of the starting field. These are without a doubt the strongest, in-depth, fields to play professional darts. Therefore it is no surprise that on any given day any player can find their “A Game” and record results that might be beyond recent expectations. The number of games where history, personality and psychology are highly relevant has also increased. Many supposed shocks are not really such, they are more complex than “current form” suggests.

Secondly, new Tour Card holders, & top up players, totally different from those of only a few years ago. They do not have to spend a fortune to play and so are not as weighed down by the financial burdens as previously. In addition, they have had seen plenty of unsung players break through and achieve major success. It does not seem like a closed shop anymore. Players like Mark Hylton & James Richardson showed you don’t have to have been major BDO successes to break through. Gerwen Price has demonstrated how far and how quickly people from outside the “usual routes” can go. Ryan Searle, Luke Humphries, Nathan Aspinall and Mickey Mansell have given examples of different types of success. Whether it’s proving that the PDC system suites some players that did not flourish in the BDO (Searle) or that you can shrug off a few non-descript years and your day may still come (Mansell) it’s still an example to anyone with the grit and talent to persist.

DARTS

Mark Hylton – Showed that a record of BDO type success was not needed.

Thirdly, the field variation is growing. Few years or so ago almost all the top players would play almost every Pro Tour event. This was required by both financial needs, less money was in the game, and ranking/qualification requirements. This is far less so in 2019. With Gary Anderson injured and the Premier League about now underway, there will be more and more variations in the field. Over a period of time. with effects on individual events, and the seedings for later ones, and players confidence and ranking positions, these variations have very large effects overall.

Could it be that the PDC have noticed this and attempted to offset some of this in order to protect its biggest stars? The sudden and unexpected changing of the format in the later stages may not only bring the Pro Tour into line with the Euro Tour. It may also serve to assist those used to playing slightly longer format darts. Premier League players and those used to later stages of the Euro Tour are definitely at an advantage for a least a few months, perhaps longer. It will be interesting to see how many of the “Outsider” players triumph in Semi and Finals?

In the meantime, those on the tour should learn that defeat at any stage, and to any player, is purely an occupational hazard whilst not allowing it to have any effect on their confidence to turn the tables in the very next event. In addition, they should practise over the best of fifteen and be able to perform at the end of long sessions. Resilience and stamina could prove the qualities in most demand.

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Ian White: The Template of Pro Tour Resilience & Stamina?

The Pro Tour Revolution is gaining momentum!

Premier League 2019: Opening Night. Welcome to Hollywood!

Following much debate over who should be selected, in the first place, and then again over who should replace the injured Gary Anderson, the PDC Premier League will get underway tonight in Newcastle (UK).

The first of “The Contenders” will also take a bow. Chris Dobey has been on the verge of a breakthrough for some time. Hollywood, as Dobey is known, first came to our attention in 2014, qualified for the UK Open and reached the last 32 of the World Masters.

Chris Dobey a.k.a Hollywood.
Pic: PDC

After success at Q School in 2015, Chris played the PDC Pro Tour full time. He also received the support of Gary Anderson. After a year of settling in Dobey finally began to show what he could do in 2016. Great runs on the Pro Tour, especially the Euro Tour, ensured qualification for the World Championship, he also qualified separately for the Grand Slam and reached the Qtr Final.
Dobey again plateaued, for twelve months, when many thought he was destined for greater things. After flattering to deceive again, during most of 2018, Chris finally moved up a gear during the Players Championship finals and again in the World championships. His run to the last 16 was superb, but his defeat at the hands of Gary Anderson gained him many fans and was lauded as one of the best games of the event.

Dobey earned his guest slot in the Premier League
Pic; PDC /L Lustig

The serendipitous withdrawal of his Mentor has given Dobey an unexpected opportunity to show his talent to a far wider audience.  It will be interesting to see if the Dobey of last December will be on stage, or whether it will be the intimidated Hollywood, of twelve months previously, who capitulated to The Power in 2017/8. If the 2019 Dobey appears, it will be a very tough opening night for the hugely popular Mensur Sulovic.

Mensur, Hugely popular Austrian with an infectious manner.
Pic: L Lustig / PDC

Elsewhere, Raymond van Barneveld will begin his long farewell to professional darts, taking on fellow former champion James Wade. It is highly debatable that RVB deserves, on form, to be in this year’s edition. However, the Barny Army will get a final chance to enjoy its hero in a regular, competitive and entertaining setting. It could inspire Barney to great things or prove too much pressure for this strangely vulnerable fella. Regardless of the outcome, surely RVB’s contribution to darts deserves a decent send-off.

RVB (could fade into the background
while Ian White needs to discover a route
to TV success. Pic : Lustig / PDC

While players such as Ian White (above), Simon Whitlock and Joe Cullen can count themselves as unlucky not to have been given a shot at the full league, it may prove a masterstroke to feature new blood almost every week.

Local stars and seriously talented newcomers are what inspire crowds and refresh the game for new generations of players and fans. Here’s hoping the idea gets off to a Hollywood start!

Riley’s UK Open Qualifiers 2019 – Pro’s Finding it Tough.

Former Pro’s and ‘Name’ Players are being given an increasingly hard time at grassroots qualifiers.

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Colin Osborne: UK Open Finalist
Can “The Wizard” adjust to open qualifiers?
Pic: PDC

The annual scramble for the ‘amateur’ places in the is well and truly underway. For the last few years, these have been decided via several knockout events staged at Riley’s clubs across the country. During this time it has become more a more difficult to get through these events and there are fewer & fewer spots available.

Recent changes to the professional qualifying events have further restricted the spots and increased the number of current, or recent, tour/elite players having to use this route. This throws up some superb quality fields in smallish venues with few of the creature comforts they are used to. Very long days, that vary in terms of organisational skills, few practice boards and little free space, mean anyone who qualifies via this route has certainly earned it! The evidence of Rob Cross and his astounding progress proves what’s out there. So Ego beware!

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Rob Cross: Voltage’s journey began with a Riley’s qualifier win!
Pic: PDC

Wes Newton became the latest ‘Star Name’ to reach the 2019 finals. The Warrior came through a very long and tough day in Chorlton. Kevin Thoburn triumphed, after 10pm, over a field that included Colin Osbourne, a former UK Open finalist, and current form horse Richie Edhouse. Other tour players including Scott Taylor & Mark Barrilli also qualified through quality fields. In other qualifiers, however, players such as Ian McFarlane Shaun Fox & Micheal Burgoine used their extensive open event experience to triumph on similarly difficult days.

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Richie Edhouse. MadHouse, current form horse fell short in Nottingham qualifier. Pic: PDC

The long and short of this is that a reputation means a lot less than it once did in such events. The fact that there are usually a few big-name players, with a good history in each event rather than one or two is a factor, but also the challenge tour, and other events, have given a wide range of payer a lot of semi-professional experience. They are therefore less intimidated, more familiar with big games and more confident than ever before. Team Riley’s should be stronger than ever for 2019.

The remaining Riley’s Qualifiers will have more and more concentrated fields with ‘Name’ players struggling to grab one shrinking numbers of places. It promises to be difficult, but an intriguing couple of weekends. With the constant evolution of the game, and players experience banks, means the breadth of quality is getting higher every year.

Former, or semi, professionals need to prepare better, adapt to the different conditions and accept the difficulties of such day, if they are to resist the hordes of quality players who in many ways have them at a disadvantage.


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