Tag Archives: Pro Tour

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.

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“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. 

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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!

Two Shots for Double Dekker?

PDC Dart player Jan Dekker, exploits ranking system to perfection as UK players disadvantaged.

Double Dekker. Former BDO World Semi Finalist Jan Dekker

Double Dekker. Former BDO World Semi Finalist Jan Dekker

Jan Dekker is a Dutch dart player of considerable talent. He has reached the later stages of the BDO ( British Darts Organisation) Lakeside World Championship on more than one occasion and has shown a strong big game temperament. He has always appeared an intelligent and well-informed person and player. He resisted the calls to run to the full-time professional circuit, after his early success, and returned to finish his education. Over the last couple of years he has again returned to the fore and this year made the decision to play within the PDC (Professional Darts Corporation) system.

The PDC system involves a qualifying school, to gain one of 128 tour cards in order to be assured of playing on the Pro Tour events and then a number of tours, of differing levels, to qualify for various major & TV events over the year. Tour cards last for up yo two years but are given annually to those in the top 64 without the need for Q School attendance. Those who fail to get a tour card are ranked on their performance. They can still play some tours and are reserve players for the main Pro Tour events and as such may be able to play almost the entire Pro Tour whilst still being eligible for the lower tier tours as well.

To enable wider international participation, some events/tours have qualifiers in, or near to, their continental locations as well as a UK qualifying event. Therefore International players can choose either method of qualification.

The basic aim of the system is to provide qualification and ranking systems and well as allow new players to make an attempt to get into the elite Tour Card holding echelons of PDC Professional darts and to earn some of the £7 million plus prize fund available. As can be imagined this is incredibly competitive and, as in any sport, requires not only talent but financial backing / earnings, patience and determination.

Having met Jan on a number of occasions during the past few years I was interested to see how his move to the PDC would pan out and thus have kept an eye out for his result, I watched some of his games and assessed his progress as the 2015 season has progressed. As a dart consultant /coach and fan I was also in a position to compare this to the efforts of other, mainly UK, players who were in a similar position at the seasons beginning. Q School in Wigan January 2015.

As well as noting Jan’s relative success, many thought he would not thrive, it became impossible not to notice several flaws in the professional system, Jan was benefiting from, not available to other players.

This was again highlighted when I also looked out for a player that I had admired, for a number of years, and was well thought of elsewhere. Eddie Dootson is an experienced but little known player from the UK. It became impossible not to see how badly the odds were stacked against him.

Now that the floor / qualification season is over these anomalies can be shown in their true light.

No blame or allegation of the players mentioned or their teams is intended or implied. Both are simply attempting to gain the best start to their PDC career within the rules in place.

Q School

Dekker had a moderately successful Q school, although he did not gain one of the Pro Tour cards available, he finished high enough up the ranking table to ensure he would be able to compete in the vast majority of Pro Tour events should he wish to do so. By entering and playing the event he also became entitled to play the second level PDC tour known as The Challenge Tour. In addition to this he would be eligible to play in the qualifiers events for six The UK Open and nine European Tour events. The later of these he could do either via the UK qualifiers, which were open to all associate members, or the European/Home Nation Qualifier for each event. This becomes the first example of Two Shots for Dekker. For the 2015 season he can aim to get a tour card either by reaching the top 64 overall or by winning the challenge tour. At the same time his financial opportunities increase over new tour card holders who cannot compete in the Challenge Tour.

Eddie Dootson had a similar overall Q School experience, although he finished higher up the ranking table and was thus assured of gaining access to every event.

Eddie Dootson Reaches L16 of UK Open 2015

Eddie Dootson Reaches Last 16 of UK Open 2015

UK Open.

With this security net, of his two shots at every aim, Jan Dekker is able to relax and play in the qualifiers for these events. As these events are not seeded and he is a highly experienced international player, this should provide a happy hunting ground. A very average performance by his own standard means he qualifies but only in the lower group. Here however his talent for big game match play comes storming through. Jan reaches the last 16 of his debut PDC major and adds £5000 to his bank account but more importantly to his overall ranking position.

Eddie starts superbly and reaches a semi final and finished in the top group in qualifying finishing in 22nd place. He then goes on to reach the last 16 of his debut major. Superb performance to add £5000 to his qualification winnings.

The Challenge Tour

Dekker has previous experience of the challenge tour so a quiet start, picking up a few hundred pounds on the first weekend, does not put a dent in the proceedings. By weekend two however Jan is in a much better place, this sees him win one event and reaches Semi and Qtr finals over the weekends four competitions. The consistent playing of events on most weekends and constant opportunities for him to improve and adapt are beginning to pay off. Over the next two Challenge Tour weekends things have changed on the Pro Tour and a confident Dekker wins two more events and picks up money / ranking points in three more. He even misses event twelve completely. In total he has picked up almost £7,500 in cash and by winning the order of merit has earned himself a tour card for 2016/17. No Q School for Mr Dekker next year. Achieving this by September removes a lot of pressure.

Eddie does not shine on the challenge tour. having not previous tour experience and having to play at the highest level in other events, it is not surprising that something gives and the Challenge Tour is not a priority.

Pro Tour

His Q school ranking ensures Jan has played in almost every Pro Tour Floor event this year. As for all newer players it has proved a tough baptism. However his talent has come through in stages and he has regularly won through to claim between £250 & £750, with one last 16 appearance earning him £1500. His total from his 19 appearances at Players Championship & UK Open qualifiers was £4750. Whilst respectable for a first season it hardly sets the world on fire with the last 16 being his best performance. Here again though, double shot, Dekker has benefited from the slanted rules. Josh Payne for example has earned over £8,000 from the same 20 Pro Tour events but is struggling to qualify for the World Championships. Dekker will have no such problems even with an overall Pro Tour finish of 73rd place.

Eddie Dootson has an excellent Pro Tour first year. As suspected he is eligible for all events and in the 20 players champs and 6 UK Open Qualifiers he reaches a Semi Final and steadily accumulates ranking money with L64 and L32 places. His earnings, of £5,250 are again higher than Jan’s.

European Tour

Since 2012 The European Tour has altered the balance of the PDC Rankings

Since 2012 The European Tour has altered the balance of the PDC Rankings

These nine events ( there will be ten in 2016) have transformed the PDC rankings. They are superb opportunities for up and coming players who get to them. They are held on stage and give great experience, as well as being the best rewarded stand alone element of the Pro Tour. Each event accepts the top 16 seeds from the appropriate order of merit and then has qualifying places open to players at the UK , European & Host nation qualifiers. Qualifiers receive £1000 for the first round and thus can easily cover expenses and concentrate on getting through a round or two to swell their ranking coffers. Often with at least one game against an opponent not from the top 16. Despite playing in the, relatively, easier qualifying events Jan has only qualified for two of these events. However they have made all the difference. Both events came at the right time in terms of financial / ranking boosts and without them life may well have been much tougher!

The £2500 gained here has meant that Jan is sitting in second spot for the European qualifying places for the World Championships. Despite being 73rd in the Pro Tour Order of Merit he will line up at Ally Pally in December. With his record, on TV, and experience meaning he is an opponent that very few would wish for.

Eddie had to enter the much more difficult UK qualifiers for all these events but still managed to qualify for 2 events and gain an additional £2,000. Despite these efforts he will not qualify for the World Championships via the Pro Tour and unless he can gain a place at the qualifying event his PDC season is complete.

Overall Rankings & Earnings.

As noted earlier the top 64 in the overall rankings gain automatic tour cards for a minimum of one year. To avoid Q School in 2016 a reasonable guess would have been for a player to gain in the region of £17,000 in ranking prize money over the season including the World Professional Championships. It is safe to say that were Dekker a UK player he would have had a solid first season and be planning Q School and then a decision on whether to keep his ranking money for 2016/17 or start again from zero. Due to the above double opportunities though he has one further card to play. The prize money from the World Championships will put Jan into the top 64. If he starts in Rd 1 it will put him into the top 55 and any wins will see him rocket up the table. Thus again the double elimination loophole is working overtime for Jan here. He has gained entry to European Tours via an event not open to all. The funds generated from this have earned him a place at Ally Pally, that is also not open to all, and the accumulation of funds will mean he is rewarded with a place in the elite top 64.

As well as the top 64 place is it safe to say that Jan’s first season has hardly been one of financial struggle against the odds. By early January 2016 he will have been in the PDC system for 12 months. He will have claimed prize money  £30,000+. This is basically for failing to win a tour card and finishing outside the top 70 on the Pro Tour. He will start 2016 with nothing to defend and with every chance of moving further up the rankings, even with another steady year.

Meanwhile Eddie Dootson, despite having matched or bettered Dekker in every ranking arena, will have earned a little over £12,000. He will decide on whether to return to Q School and, if he achieves a tour card, whether to start again or gamble on a lesser amount in the ranking bank.

Whilst acknowledging that it is important for darts to attract players and financial interest from other nations, surely it is time to remove some of the more glaring unfairness from a system that works against highly talented players who, cannot work the system financially or, are simply born in the nation that drives the darts boom!

Barry Hearn

Put simply, it is time for Barry Hearn & Matt Porter at the PDC and Peter Manley & Alan Warriner-Little at the PDPA to stop tweaking the rules, and ranking system, and overhaul it to take account of the changes that their superb success, in creating the modern game, has created. It is clearly time for as level a playing field as possible.