Tag Archives: World Professional Darts Championships

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.

Pro Darts – Class of 2010 Return to Earth with a Bang!

We left the “Class of 2010” at the end of the 2011/12 season after   two full seasons in the PDC. Six newcomers had taken to the professional game like lads to lager, but would they be able to withstand the pressures sure to come? Living up to expectations, earning their livings, coping with being known to all the other players and then defending their rankings and positions over the next few seasons.

Could they forge lasting careers in and places in the record books of modern professional darts?

High and Whitey 2012 smoke

It is now five full seasons since the boys of 2010 entered the PDC, during the first two years it was fair to say they had made superb starts and were in a position to make a genuine, and lasting, impact on the fast expanding and financially rewarding PDC Pro Circuit.

It is safe to say that the next three seasons have seen mixed results to say the very least.

Nigel “The Undertaker” Hayden:

Ranking after 2011/12 World Championships – 43

Current Ranking – 76

Nigel Heydon 2012

(Technically unranked as new Tour Card will be zeroed)

As noted in the original article Nigel had the fastest start of any of the new boys in 2010. He caught most of the established order napping, reaching a quarter-final in his first PDC weekend and a last 16 place in his first professional major appearance. During his second year strong floor form and appearances at The Grand Slam and The World Professional Championships ensured his star continued to rise.

During this time however Nigel was unfortunate enough to suffer from sponsorship issues which led to important events being missed. These may have resulted in more major qualifications and an even higher ranking. It is safe to say that the two years that followed were not of the same standard he had produced in his first two seasons.

His ranking began to slump and the upward momentum, that appeared to be with him, soon disappeared, to be replaced by a downward cycle. After failing to defend  his ranking points / pounds in 2012 and 2013 Nigel was forced to return to the beginning in 2014 and take Q school route to retain his tour card. Brilliantly he did so on the final day and chose to keep his current points total and have a single year card. This was a tactical mistake. Nigel then had a mixed year, showing some flashes of his true self but struggling overall. His runs to the last 32 of the UK open and a Pro Tour Semi underlined the talent he possesses.

This has been underlined once more in Q School 2015 where, despite having to return once again, Nigel qualified automatically for a tour card on day 1!

Future Prospects –

Nigel’s talent is clear to any who watch him regularly. The difficulty with combustible early sponsorship and the need to work full-time have placed limits on the extent to which this potential has been realised. It will take a sustained spell of focus and his very best performances to regain the momentum had in 2011/12. Without such a run, the yo-yo of Tour Card and Q School may continue.

Steve Farmer

Ranking after 2011/12 World Championships – 36

Steve Farmer 2011

Current ranking – Unranked

Even the stats given above do not give the true picture of the dramatic rise and fall of “The Train”. Within twelve months of joining the PDC Steve had won a Pro Tour event, finished runner-up in another, qualified for and played in three majors and The World Championships. For good measure he had reached the Semi-Finals of one of those majors! During the second year he had gone for the approach of not playing all events and coming on strong in the ones he did enter. This seemed to suit his game and the run to the last 16 of the 2011/12 worlds appeared to cement his place in the higher bracket.

All seemed to start well in 2012, with Steve correcting the previous error by qualifying for the UK Open. It should be mentioned that he did this is style with a competitive  9 dart leg in round 3. From there on however things completely reversed. Steve crashed out of that event early, qualified for no more majors that year and repeated the pattern in 2013. Over these two terrible years Steve’s ranking slipped to 49 and then outside the top 150. Following his failure to qualify, for the 2013/14 World Championships, Steve did not renew his membership of the PDPA and has not played events for over a year.

This unmatched decline seems to have involved a number of factors, the difficulty of earning a reliable living playing darts, whilst having to keep additional work to ensure family income, may have played a role. In addition Steve is not a keen long distance traveller and the growth in numbers and importance of European Tour events has worked to his disadvantage.

Future Prospects – 

In the case of Steve this is very difficult to project. He is a superb natural talent and is capable of defeating any individual or putting a tournament winning run together. Whether he ever wishes to make the attempt again may prove the deciding factor. To have achieved those heights so quickly and yet completely disappear from the rankings within another two years is an incredible but unwanted record.

Antonio “El Dartador” Alcinas

Ranking after 2011/12 World Championships – 50

Alcinas soft tip

Current Ranking – 120 (Officially unranked as no tour card)

Antonio’s defeat to Andy “The Hammer” Hamilton in the world championship seemed to be a high water mark for the Spaniard. His previous floor event form deserted him and despite qualifying for the European Championships and The UK Open on a number of occasions it seems a sustained run to a higher plateau is not within him.

Some of Antonio’s erratic form could be as the result of his other area of excellence. It should be remembered that he is only member of the class of 2010 to be a World Champion. His victory in the 2010 World Soft Tip event has led to him playing regularly on the soft tip tour and achieving very good results. This results in a huge a mount of travelling and possibly the distraction of being committed to more than one goal. Alcinas seems to thrive on success and momentum thus even in the darker times he can have runs in either format to earn good prize money and keep himself in contention.

Future Prospects

It is possible that “El Dartador” will become one of the first complete multi format darters. Due to his European nationality it is still easier for him to qualify for many PDC events than it is for the UK players and he seems to still do this with regularity. These events together with the World Cup of Darts, which will see him with a new partner in the form of Christo Reyes, seem to inspire him. For him to achieve much more he will have to concentrate on one tour and commit 100%. He appears to not need or want to do this and so will  probably continue to be a minor player in the PDC and still achieve spasmodic high notes both there and in the soft tip arena.

Scott Rand 

Ranking after 2011/12 World Championships – 41

Scott Rand

Current Ranking – 83 (Unranked due to no tour card).

After the huge success of 2011, with Scott reaching the Semi Finals of The Players Championships and the last 32 of the World Championships, the decision to become a full-time dart player was made. With a new management deal and a sponsorship from Target darts things seemed to be in place for a long and successful professional career for the former lorry driver. 2012 was a solid year on the Pro Tour but not strong enough for Scott to feature in additional majors. A decent UK Open and another last 32 place at the World Champs meant a consolidating year but not the upward curve that would have been anticipated. 2013 was much the same, with scattered highlights of good floor form , including quarter and semi finals, but no increase in major qualifications or impact.

Scott’s problems compounded in 2014, a very poor start to the year and failure to qualify for the UK Open seem to indicate more troubles for “Cool Hand”. His participation in the tour halted in July  2014 and he did not participate in either the qualification play-offs for events or the Q School for 2015.

Future Prospects – 

Scott’s ability and determination are not in doubt, his form and competitiveness never disappeared in the way of some other players. It appears that external matters, as well as the pressures of earning a living at the game, have combined to make things doubly tough for the midlander.

Rand has shown before that he can return from a period away and be successful. It may however be harder to manage such a comeback in the new PDC. It will be interesting to see if , when and where this superbly talented thrower will resurface.

Mark “Mile High” Hylton

Ranking after 2012 Worlds – 33

mh uk open 2012 v jabba action shot dart in air

Current Ranking – (Unranked due to no Tour Card).

The return to earth of “Mile High” is, perhaps, the most shocking of all the bumpy rides to befall the class of 2010. An perfect storm of events conspired to cause the Rugeley leftie to fall from the verges of the Premier League towards the end of 2011 to twice failing to secure a tour cards at the q schools of 2014 & 2015.

It is often said that it is more difficult to deal with and maintain success than it is to achieve it. Hylton struggled to maintain a stellar spell which saw two major qtr finals, an epic battle with Taylor at The Matchplay and a hat full of Pro Tour Qtr & Semi’ finals. Sadly the tail off was nearly as dramatic.  Personal circumstances produced a major blow for Mark following The Grand Prix and successive European Pro Tour events. Together with a slip in focus and difficulties coping with expectation, caused by the early success, this resulted in two successive first round major exits. Although both were close and well contested, the “Mile High” of a few months before would have won both with ease. The decline that had begun after the Benidorm  Pro Tour event in 2011 did not come to a stop.

As well as these extraneous matters the darting gods turned against Mark at this crucial time. Chizzy defeated Phil Taylor at the 2011/12 worlds, this ensured that Mark would not finish in the top 32 that year. The new European Tour was announced with the top 32 qualifying automatically. Thus Hylton was left having to struggle to qualify for events that due to some early gliches were handing players £1000’s for a couple of soft ish games. As a direct result Mark was unable to take advantage and lost ground in the early part of the year. When he finally played his way into the top 32 and qualification for Euro Tour events, he was then injured in a fall and unable to play!

Few highlights in the first half of 2012 included a pair of Pro Tour qtr finals, one of which was the hardest working I have seen, and a rally to the last 32 at the UK Open. That remains the last we have seen of “Mile High” on our screens or indeed at the later stages of any major. Following a parting of the ways with his management team his Pro Tour form deteriorated further and after falling out of the top 64, having not gained a tour card from Q School, he chose to pursue the PDC’s  Challenge Tour in an effort to regain some focus and confidence. It would appear that Mark will adopt the same strategy again in 2015 after failing to secure a tour card again.

Future Prospects – 

Mark starts 2015 with strong hopes of a return to where his ability should take him. A new sponsorship and management deal, and some life changes, together with some renewed application and focus, seem to have given a little momentum. Early signs are promising if not yet earth shattering. Needs to re discover the self belief he had installed into him previously.

 

Ian “Diamond” White

Ranking after 2011/12 Worlds – 54

Ian White  Diamond Shirt

Current Ranking – 16

Ian ranking was the lowest of our class at the 2 year point. However he had started a little later than most and had come on strong toward the end of his second season. A place in the grand slam and his first world championship had ensured that Whitey would start 2012 in a far better position than had been the case twelve months previously.

Within 3 months of the season re start Ian had picked up two semi finals and several other good Pro Tour placings. I addition his 9 dart finish during the Benidorm event had added both cash and confidence. Over the next 6 months he accumulated ranking points like sweets and got over the first round TV hurdle in The Matchplay. he added a European Tour final and another 9 darter for good measure, all before the end of September. Another two Pro Tour finals were added as were last sixteen places in the European Championships and the World Grand Prix along with the Champions League of Darts in October. Diamond completed the year by adding The Players Championship Finals to the list of majors and another solid appearance at the 2012/3 Worlds.

If anything Ian next twelve months were even stronger, proving to be the only member of the 2010 intake who could sustain a top end challenge and not struggle under the expectation. His superb end to 2012 on the floor meant that a consistent showing in Pro Tour & Euro Tour events was enough gain Ian qualification for The Matchplay & World Grand Prix again to consolidate a superb 12 months. A huge hurdle was crossed in September when after a few finals, and other near misses, Ian claimed a Pro Tour event in Barnsley. This long-awaited win opened the floodgates and led to Ian winning another floor event, before the end of the season, and claimed a quarter-final place in The Players Championships in early December. This superb run has seen “Diamond White” climb from the verges of the top 32 into the top twenty players in the world within a year. There was more to come yet! Strong victories over Kyle anderson, Kim Huybrechts and Richie Burnett ( especially sweet) mean that Diamond had reached the Quarter-Finals of The World Championships. A dramatic final set defeat at the hands of Simon Whitlock ended the campaign for that year with Ian scheduled as a top 16 player!

2014 can be seen as either a continuation of what had been started the previous year or a consolidation year. Progress was made at the UK Open with his quarter-final appearance making it 3 major quarters in a row. Two more Pro Tour wins and an immensely consistent Pro & Euro Tour effort ensured that Whitey stayed firmly in the top 16 in the order of merit. His World Championships were ended in the last 32 by a resurgent Kim Huybrechts who, despite being 4 places lower in the rankings has been awarded a Premier League spot.

Future Prospects – 

Whitey’s performance and his recent Masters Series debut has ensured that the class of 2010 have been represented at all PDC events except the Premier League. He is currently ranked 13 in the world and, with the prize money and event increases, has the chance to achieve even more. He has shown a great ability to learn and improve, both his game and his strategy / event management. If this pattern continues there is no reason for Ian not to go higher. He has a stated ambition of being a World Champion and, as we have seen on the floor, once he starts winning events then he can be unstoppable. Three years ago, I mentioned to Ian that, due to his metronomic style and ability to learn and process, he could get to the very top of world darts. I added that it would be a methodical rise and an eventual outcome rather than a sudden burst. So far that prediction is looking eerily accurate.

What next for the “Class of 2010”?

The class of 2010 blazed a trail for unheralded but talented players to take a full tilt at the highest level of professional darts. Six guys with very little or no top flight experience took the plunge and the results have been played out before us. Between them they have reached every major event (even the Premier League may not be beyond them!) One or more have reached the top 16, top 32 or top 48 over the five-year period. The semi’s of TV events have been reached twice and the quarters on multiple occasions.

They have also illustrated the importance of solid and stable personal lives, genuine and financially stable management or sponsorships and the importance of timing decisions or thoughts such as giving up employment or believing you have made it.

For Ian White it may well be onward and upward, if he can adjust as well to this last step up as he has to all the others on the way.

For the others it seems that time out or a new approach are needed, perhaps slower burning beginnings and steadier climbs up the rankings, in the manner of Q  School graduate 2012 Q School graduate Andy Gilding may well be more realistic in the new PDC system. Messers Heydon, Hylton, Rand,  Farmer and Alcinas have all shown that they have the talent and ability to compete with the very best. Sadly they have also shown that more than that is required for a lasting career at the top of elite darts. Ian “Diamond” White has shown what can be achieved if all the elements are present.

Could it be that Ian’s experience of reaching the 1997 News of the World final, and the difficult times that followed, ensured that he would not miss a second shot at the top?

(Photo Credit : Lawrence Lustig, Tip Top Pics & PDC)