Preceded by LA cock rock outfit Steel Panther on Tuesday evening, the fight for the £100k Grand Slam of darts winner’s cheque begins on Saturday in Wolverhampton. Legendary tracks such as ‘Asian Hooker’ and ‘Big Boobs’  will be replaced by the familiar sounds of ‘Chase the Sun’ resonating through a packed Civic Hall as the PDC’s own ‘Tungsten Panthers’ prowl the stage.

Tungsten Panther!

Tungsten Panther!

As a televised tournament the Grand Slam of Darts has much to offer, although the hardcore darts fan would argue that it is a missed opportunity for a genuine cross code battle featuring the best from each side of the tungsten curtain.

In reality it is a PDC organised and financed invitational event, which showcases the world’s best players and pitches them against each other for the big payday. The fact that it features BDO players at all is incidental and not really key to its success. After all why would Barry Hearn want to promote 16 of his rival organisation’s players?

What it does provide is a carrot to dangle before the handful of invited BDO players as a taster of big time professional darts PDC-style. It works, and the purple blazer brigade usually performs well in Wolverhampton, with some going on to ‘switch’ when the opportunity presents itself. Although not all are seduced by the Grand Slam experience…

WDF No. 2 Scott Waites for example, 2009 runner up and 2010 Champion, has, for his own reasons, remained faithful to the BDO. Having been dumped out at the group stage in 2011, he returns to Wolverhampton this year with the added complication of featuring in 4-time champion Phil Taylor’s group. Let’s look at the groups…

GROUP A – Taylor & Waites are hot to trot

Phil Taylor (Seeded 1), Scott Waites, Mark Webster, Co Stompe

A group which consists of the only two players to have ever won the Grand Slam title is daunting for Stompe and Webster; neither have been in great shakes this year. Stompe qualified on the back of his World Cup of Darts success and Webster has been nothing short of woeful recently. This group looks as straightforward as any so lets move on.

GROUP B – a thorny group that is prickly to predict

Michael van Gerwen (8), Robert Thornton, Ted Hankey, Steve Beaton

The Count makes his first visit to the Civic Hall as a fully paid up member of the Professional Darts Corporation. With a disappointing start to his maiden year he has a different agenda this time; to prove he can cut the mustard in the PDC in what is likely to be his last TV appearance for some time. And we know what mustard can do to Vampires!

Group B is a tough one – van Gerwen is the PDC’s form horse and is enjoying a purple patch after bagging his first major; the same goes for Thornton but the thorn in the Scotsman’s side could be the lingering health problems that forced him out of a recent European event.

Steve Beaton could be the dark (but clean shaven for Movember) horse of this group though and The Adonis might just be sharp enough to join MvG in a tashless top two.

GROUP C – who will follow The Wizard?

Simon Whitlock (5), Kevin Painter, Dean Winstanley, James Hubbard

Another man who has his feet firmly under the PDC table this year is Simon Whitlock. His recent form rivals MvG and he comes here with his first PDC major under his belt having won the European Championship earlier in the year.

The ever-dangerous Kevin Painter is here courtesy of his victory at the Players Championship Final and always perks his game up for the TV stage. He also has a 6-5 winning head to head record over Whitlock but has lost the last three.

Young Master Hubbard has plenty of time on his side and will treat this week as valuable experience while prolific 180 hitter, Dean Winstanley, has made a decent fist of his first year in the PDC and features in yet another TV tournament.

This looks to be a reasonably straightforward group to call with Whitlock & Painter only threatened should Winstanley alloy his power scoring to the crisp finishing that is sometimes missing.

GROUP D – a Wade of two halves…

James Wade (4), Jan Dekker, Mervyn King, Arron Monk

Given James Wade’s alarming melt down during his last outing at the Grand Prix, plus his capitulation on the Wolverhampton stage in 2010, it is hard to predict whether the Machine will be oiled in Wolverhampton this week. This could be very good, or very bad, news for his three Group D foes.

Mervyn King has overcome his injury problems and seems to have found some form at just the right time as his recent World Grand Prix runner up illustrates. He must fancy his chances of getting out of this group and no doubt he will tell us so in his first interview.

Arron Monk has just won the PDC Youth Tour title and is fast turning into an experienced young man. Monky definitely comes into the reckoning if Wade goes AWOL again. Jan Dekker is something of an unknown in this company and his 2012 form is patchy. Can Mr Cool keep his cool and take advantage of a fractious group?

GROUP E – will it be party time for Silverback?

Adrian Lewis (2), Gary Anderson, John Part, Tony O’Shea

Adrian Lewis hasn’t featured at the sharp end of a major since his second world title in January. Gary Anderson’s fall has been even more pronounced and (if internet rumours are to be believed) a ridiculous new shirt won’t win darts matches  – just ask Wayne Mardle! So… step up J and T.

John Part’s inclusion in this year’s Grand Slam is courtesy of his World Championship win back in 2008 so the big Canadian, ranked 24th in the PDC order of merit, no PDC titles this year, is here by the skin of his teeth. Tony O’Shea was Lakeside runner up back in January, World Masters runner up last month, has the Dutch & Polish Opens to his name, and currently tops the WDF Men’s Rankings.

Contrasting qualification routes and contrasting form but both will sniff a great chance of getting out of a group that is perhaps easier on the oche than it looks on paper.

In form O’Shea has a 1-0 winning head to head record against both Lewis & Part and is level at 2-2 with Anderson. The Stockport Silverback will not be daunted by this group, while being the underdog usually inspires the gritty double world champion Part.

GROUP F – Hammer Time!

Andy Hamilton (7), Paul Nicholson, Brendan Dolan, Barrie Bates

The Hammer is backed by solid form this year and might go off as warm favourite to get out of Group F but whether that is the case, and who joins him, is anybody’s guess. We can probably discount one of the four though…

Barrie Bates sneaks into the field as 2010 World Cup of Darts runner up and a severe lack of competitive action in the months since see the Welshman with a sorry 26% win rate in 2012. A succession of injuries have taken their toll and Bates will do well to avoid being the whipping boy of Group F.

Brendan Dolan is up to 20th in the PDC Order of Merit and is playing the best darts of his career. He has a 100% head to head record against Paul Nicholson of four wins from four, including two in successive Championship League Darts days at the end of October.

Nicholson is starting to rediscover the form that led to his idle boasts of world domination last year and himself has a 5-1 winning head to head record over Hamilton. If he hits his stride this group will be a fascinating three-way tungsten tussle that is impossible to call.

GROUP G – stay out of harms way

Wes Newton (6), Terry Jenkins, Wesley Harms, Martin Phillips

I was about to narrow this group down to a three horse race before dart-chucking-binman, Martin Philips, won the Turkish Open in October, beating Scott Waites & Darryl Fitton in the process. His 2011 Lakeside semi final appearance may have surprised some but, at the very least, it proves the Welshman is capable of surprises. Could he spring one here and bag a second round spot?

Wesley Harms has won the England, Swiss and French Opens this year, and enjoyed a fine run to the semi finals of the Winmau World Masters. He’s 6th in the WDF rankings and beat Phillips at the Lakeside back in January. The Dutchman’s star is burning bright and he could do some damage if he conquers his nerves.

Newton & Jenkins need no introduction and will expect to progress from Group G. It’s hard to look past the PDC pair as long as they stay out of harm’s way.

GROUP H – has Barney kissed goodbye to the big time?

Christian Kist (3), Raymond van Barneveld, Mark Walsh, Wayne Jones

The ongoing travails of 5-time World Champion, Raymond van Barneveld, are fascinating, if sometimes painful, to watch. Barney is still more than capable on his day (witness some record breaking averages in major competition this year) but those days are becoming fewer with each passing tournament. He might have drawn himself a comfortable little group here though.

Wayne Jones is the home favourite and a long term DartsMad “mate” but aside from a semi final at a recent European Tour event has little 2012 form to indicate that he will be pulling up trees this week. Always dangerous but his finishing dart is prone to wander and, sad to say, it will be a surprise if Jones progresses.

Christian Kist is the current BDO World Champion and although he has not played much this year his hit rate is impressive. Mariflex semis, runner up in the Belgium Open in August and last week’s WDF Europe Cup is good from five WDF events played since being crowned at the Lakeside in January. He’s beaten Tony O’Shea, Martin Adams & Gary Robson this year but is definitely the seed that everybody will have wanted to draw.

All of which potentially leaves Mark Walsh as the guy to pick up the pieces. Special Brew appeared to have dropped off the radar for most of this year before bouncing back in the Championship League Darts event at Crondon Park. After two successive group final defeats Walshy made it through to the final winners group at the third time of asking; where he promptly lost six of his seven matches! If the smoothness is back this group is there for the taking.

CONCLUSION

So there we have it,  as the last embers of Bonfire night burn out we can look forward to more fireworks on the Civic Hall stage at the weekend. We have no idea who will win it and have probably muddied the waters even further with everything above. Just lump on Phil Taylor, that usually works.

Don’t forget to enter our Beat The Tipster competition and if you are having a flutter maybe take a cue from our preview above and search our ‘dartabase’ for past results and H2H statistics.

Links

Grand Slam Draw | Beat The Tipster | Grand Slam 2011 Results | Grand Slam Role of Honour | Grand Slam Schedule of Play

 

Grand Slam of Darts Outright Betting at PaddyPower

(correct 05/11/12)

Phil Taylor 6/4 Tony O’Shea 66/1
Robert Thornton 33/1 Wayne Jones 125/1
Steve Beaton 100/1 Raymond van Barneveld 20/1
Adrian Lewis 8/1 Mark Webster 80/1
Scott Waites 40/1 Martin Phillips 125/1
Jan Dekker 100/1 Wes Newton 25/1
Michael van Gerwen 10/1 Ted Hankey 80/1
Terry Jenkins 40/1 Arron Monk 150/1
Michael Smith 100/1 Mervyn King 33/1
Simon Whitlock 10/1 Kevin Painter 80/1
Paul Nicholson 40/1 Co Stompe 150/1
Wesley Harms 100/1 Christian Kist 33/1
Gary Anderson 14/1 Mark Walsh 80/1
Dean Winstanley 66/1 James Hubbard 225/1
John Part 125/1 Andy Hamilton 33/1
James Wade 14/1 Brendan Dolan 100/1
Barrie Bates 500/1

 

Each Way Terms 1/2 places 1,2

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