MICHAEL VAN GERWEN will begin his defence of the William Hill World Darts Championship title against Joe Cullen at Alexandra Palace later in December, with Phil Taylor drawn against Jyhan Artut in the £1.25 million tournament.

Dutch star van Gerwen claimed his maiden World Championship title in January when he defeated Peter Wright to claim darts’ biggest prize as he raised the Sid Waddell Trophy.

Van Gerwen has been drawn against Bradford’s Cullen as he opens his challenge to retain the title when the tournament – held from December 18-January 4 – kicks off with the first round before Christmas.

“Joe’s a talented player and he will be tough to beat, so I know it’s a hard test for me,” said van Gerwen, the 5/2 second favourite with sponsors William Hill.

“He’s been on the circuit for a few years now and he’s been in a few World Championships, and I like playing against him because he’s a quick player like myself.

“I’ll have to make sure I’m ready and I’ll be practising hard because it will take a lot of hard work to win the tournament and you can’t afford any mistakes, because all the players are so good now.”

Phil Taylor, the 16-time World Champion and William Hill’s 15/8 pre-tournament favourite, has drawn Germany’s Jyhan Artut as he begins his bid to win back the Sid Waddell Trophy.

“Jyhan’s a really good player and he’s had some good results this year so I know it’s going to be a tough match,” said Taylor. “I’ve got a couple of weeks to get ready for the tournament now and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Number three seed Adrian Lewis, the 2011 and 2012 champion, has drawn Shropshire-based David Pallett as the emerging youngster makes his World Championship debut.

Gary Anderson, a former finalist and last weekend’s Cash Converters Players Championship Finals winner, will meet either New Zealand’s Mark McGrath or American debutant Scott Kirchner in his Alexandra Palace opener.

Last year’s beaten finalist Peter Wright, the number five seed, will open his challenge to go one better against Welsh debutant Gerwyn Price, the former rugby union player who has enjoyed a successful first year on the PDC circuit.

Last month’s Masters champion James Wade drew Wales’ Jamie Lewis, with 2010 finalist Simon Whitlock up against Darren Webster and number eight seed Dave Chisnall taking on Dutch debutant Ryan De Vreede.

Two other debutants from Holland, Christian Kist and Ron Meulenkamp, drew Jelle Klaasen and Mark Webster respectively, while emerging star Benito van de Pas takes on Paul Nicholson in his Alexandra Palace debut.

Five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld has drawn Austrian debutant Rowby-John Rodriguez, while three-time World Champion John Part takes on the current World Youth Champion Keegan Brown.

Former finalist Andy Hamilton will take on Canadian newcomer Dave Richardson, with 2004 runner-up Kevin Painter up against the winner of the preliminary round tie between Boris Koltsov and Haruki Muramatsu.

Reigning Lakeside Champion Stephen Bunting makes his PDC World Championship debut against either Holland’s Jermaine Wattimena or Croatia’s Robert Marijanovic.

Terry Jenkins – the runner-up in the UK Open and European Championship this year who landed a nine-dart leg at Ally Pally 12 months ago – plays Oceanic Masters winner John Weber, while Dean Winstanley takes on former semi-finalist Wayne Jones and Robert Thornton meets debutant Andrew Gilding.

Belgian brothers Kim and Ronny Huybrechts take on Mickey Mansell and Andy Smith respectively, while Holland’s Vincent van der Voort drew Scotland’s John Henderson.

Another Scot, the PDPA Qualifier winner Jason Hogg, drew Jamie Caven for his World Championship debut, with Monday’s PDPA Qualifier runner-up Scott Mackenzie meeting Daryl Gurney in the preliminary round with a first round tie against Ronnie Baxter awaiting their winner.

In-form Mervyn King will play German teenager Max Hopp, Justin Pipe takes on the DPA Australian Grand Prix champion Lawrence Ryder and Steve Beaton faces Kyle Anderson in a repeat of their meeting at the same stage two years ago, with the Australian also having hit a nine-darter in last year’s event.

Former World Youth Champion Michael Smith, who knocked out Taylor 12 months ago, plays Austria’s Mensur Suljovic, with Wes Newton up against either Christian Perez or Cristo Reyes.

Ian White awaits the winner of the preliminary round tie between Jani Haavisto and John Michael, while Brendan Dolan plays either Nolan Arendse or Alex Hon and Stuart Kellett, the number 32 seed, takes on either Kim Viljanen or Sascha Stein.

The William Hill World Darts Championship will be shown live on the Sky Sports Darts channel from December 18-January 4, and televised worldwide through the PDC’s broadcast partners and on www.LIVEPDC.TV.

Ticket information for the William Hill World Darts Championship is available at www.pdc.tv/tickets.

Preliminary Round Draw
Christian Perez (Philippines) v Cristo Reyes (Spain)
Jani Haavisto (Finland) v John Michael (Greece)
Nolan Arendse (South Africa) v Alex Hon (Hong Kong)
Boris Koltsov (Russia) v Haruki Muramatsu (Japan)
Kim Viljanen (Finland) v Sascha Stein (Germany)
Mark McGrath (New Zealand) v Scott Kirchner (USA)
Jermaine Wattimena (Netherlands) v Robert Marijanovic (Croatia)
Scott Mackenzie (Hong Kong) v Daryl Gurney (Northern Ireland)

First Round Draw
Michael van Gerwen (1, Netherlands) v Joe Cullen (England)
Stuart Kellett (32, England) v Viljanen/Stein
Terry Jenkins (16, England) v John Weber (Australia)
Justin Pipe (17, England) v Lawrence Ryder (Australia)
Dave Chisnall (8, England) v Ryan De Vreede (Netherlands)
Paul Nicholson (25, Australia) v Benito van de Pas (Netherlands)
Robert Thornton (9, Scotland) v Andrew Gilding (England)
Ronnie Baxter (24, England) v Mackenzie/Gurney
Peter Wright (5, Scotland) v Gerwen Price (Wales)
Andy Smith (28, England) v Ronny Huybrechts (Belgium)
Andy Hamilton (12, England) v Dave Richardson (Canada)
Steve Beaton (21, England) v Kyle Anderson (Australia)
Gary Anderson (4, Scotland) v McGrath/Kirchner
Jelle Klaasen (29, Netherlands) v Christian Kist (Netherlands)
Wes Newton (13, England) v Perez/Reyes
Kevin Painter (20, England) v Koltsov/Muramatsu
Phil Taylor (2, England) v Jyhan Artut (Germany)
Mark Webster (31, Wales) v Ron Meulenkamp (Netherlands)
Ian White (15, England) v Haavisto/Michael
Kim Huybrechts (18, Belgium) v Mickey Mansell (Northern Ireland
Simon Whitlock (7, Australia) v Darren Webster (England)
Dean Winstanley (26, England) v Wayne Jones (England)
Mervyn King (10, England) v Max Hopp (Germany)
Vincent van der Voort (23, Netherlands) v John Henderson (Scotland)
James Wade (6, England) v Jamie Lewis (Wales)
Stephen Bunting (27, England) v Wattimena/Marijanovic
Brendan Dolan (11, Northern Ireland) v Arendse/Hon
Michael Smith (22, England) v Mensur Suljovic (Austria)
Adrian Lewis (3, England) v David Pallett (England)
John Part (30, Canada) v Keegan Brown (England)
Raymond van Barneveld (14, Netherlands) v Rowby-John Rodriguez (Austria)
Jamie Caven (19, England) v Jason Hogg (Scotland)

William Hill Tournament Odds
15/8 Phil Taylor
5/2 Michael van Gerwen
7/1 Gary Anderson
11/1 Adrian Lewis
12/1 James Wade
16/1 Stephen Bunting
40/1 Dave Chisnall
40/1 Peter Wright
40/1 Raymond van Barneveld
40/1 Simon Whitlock
50/1 Kim Huybrechts
50/1 Mervyn King
50/1 Michael Smith
66/1 Robert Thornton
80/1 Keegan Brown
80/1 Terry Jenkins
125/1 Wes Newton
150/1 Andy Hamilton
150/1 Benito van de Pas
150/1 Brendan Dolan
150/1 Christian Kist
150/1 Ian White
150/1 Jamie Caven
150/1 Justin Pipe
150/1 Mark Webster
150/1 Paul Nicholson
150/1 Ronnie Baxter
200/1 Dean Winstanley
200/1 Jamie Lewis
200/1 Jelle Klaasen
200/1 John Part
200/1 Kevin Painter
200/1 Ronny Huybrechts
200/1 Steve Beaton
200/1 Stuart Kellett
200/1 Vincent van der Voort
250/1 Gerwyn Price
250/1 Kyle Anderson
250/1 Mensur Suljovic
300/1 Andrew Gilding
300/1 Darren Webster
300/1 Daryl Gurney
300/1 John Henderson
300/1 Max Hopp
400/1 Kim Viljanen
500/1 Dave Richardson
500/1 Jani Haavisto
500/1 Mickey Mansell
500/1 Rowby-John Rodriguez
500/1 Wayne Jones
500/1 Jermaine Wattimena
750/1 Alex Hon
750/1 David Pallett
1000/1 Boris Koltsov
1000/1 Christian Perez
1000/1 Haruki Muramatsu
1000/1 Jason Hogg
1000/1 Joe Cullen
1000/1 John Michael
1000/1 Lawrence Ryder
1000/1 Robert Marijanovic
1000/1 Ron Meulenkamp
1000/1 Ryan De Vreede
1000/1 Sascha Stein
1500/1 Jyhan Artut
1500/1 Scott Kirchner
2000/1 Cristo Reyes
2000/1 John Weber
2000/1 Mark McGrath
2000/1 Nolan Arendse
2000/1 Scott Mackenzie
Prices subject to fluctuation, see www.williamhill.com for latest odds.

William Hill Specials
Michael van Gerwen v Phil Taylor Final – 7/2

Big Two Versus The Field
4/5 Michael van Gerwen or Phil Taylor to win
10/11 The Field to win

2015 World Darts Championship Schedule of Play

THE schedule of play for the 2015 William Hill World Darts Championship has been confirmed, with reigning champion Michael van Gerwen and former champion John Part in action when the £1.25million event kicks off on Thursday December 18.

The sport’s biggest tournament will be held across 20 sessions in 14 days of play at London’s Alexandra Palace throughout the Christmas and New Year period, as players from 21 countries do battle for the Sid Waddell Trophy.

The six days of play from December 18-23 ahead of the Christmas break will feature the preliminary and first rounds, with the second round and third round held from December 27-30 before the tournament returns on New Year’s Day for the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.

Reigning champion Michael van Gerwen will headline the opening night on December 18 as he begins the defence of his title against Joe Cullen.

Three-time World Champion John Part opens the tournament against reigning PDC Unicorn World Youth Champion John Part, with former Lakeside Champions Jelle Klaasen and Christian Kist clashing before Wes Newton plays the winner of the preliminary round tie between Christian Perez and Cristo Reyes.

The second night of action on Friday December 19 will feature 16-time World Champion Phil Taylor, as he begins his bid to win back the title against Jyhan Artut.

Former finalists Andy Hamilton and Peter Wright are in action against debutants Dave Richardson and Gerwyn Price, while Stuart Kellett plays either Kim Viljanen or Sascha Stein.

The weekend features double sessions on Saturday December 20 and Sunday December 21, with play in both the afternoon and evening at Alexandra Palace.

Saturday’s afternoon session will see former UK Open champion Robert Thornton meet Andrew Gilding, Andy Smith’s game with Ronny Huybrechts, Justin Pipe up against Lawrence Ryder and Ronnie Baxter playing either Scott Mackenzie or Daryl Gurney.

World number four Gary Anderson – the 2011 runner-up – plays either Mark McGrath or Scott Kirchner in Saturday’s evening session, with two players who nit nine-darters in last year’s event, Terry Jenkins and Kyle Anderson, up against John weber and Steve Beaton respectively.

2010 finalist Simon Whitlock completes a trio of Australians in action on Saturday night as he takes on Darren Webster.

Sunday’s afternoon session will see 2004 World Championship runner-up Kevin Painter in action against either Boris Koltsov or Haruki Muramatsu.

Former Lakeside Champion Mark Webster meets Holland’s Ron Meulenkamp, Paul Nicholson faces Benito van de Pas and Dean Winstanley is up against Wayne Jones.

Sunday’s evening session will include November’s Masters champion James Wade facing Jamie Lewis and Grand Slam of Darts finalist Dave Chisnall’s clash with Ryan De Vreede.

Kim Huybrechts faces Mickey Mansell, while Ian White will take on the winner of the preliminary round game between Jani Haavisto and John Michael.

The final two days of pre-Christmas action will be held in evening sessions on Monday December 22 and Tuesday December 23.

Monday’s session will include five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld’s game with Austrian debutant Rowby-John Rodriguez.

Former World Youth Champion Michael Smith meets Mensur Suljovic and Jamie Caven plays Jason Hogg, while Brendan Dolan will face either Nolan Arendse or Alex Hon.

Two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis takes on David Pallett on Tuesday December 23, with reigning Lakeside Champion Stephen Bunting making his Alexandra Palace debut against either Jermaine Wattimena or Robert Marijanovic.

Mervyn King will meet German teenager Max Hopp, and Holland’s Vincent van der Voort plays John Henderson.

Tickets for the William Hill World Darts Championship are still available but selling fast, with the majority of sessions now sold out.

Tickets can be purchased through the following methods:
SeeTickets – official box office through pdc.seetickets.com or by calling 0844 871 8807.
viagogo – official ticket exchange through www.viagogo.co.uk.
Thomas Cook Sport – official hotel & ticket break packages through www.thomascooksport.com.
Hospitality Packages through the PDC Head Office by calling 08712 501 180.

2015 William Hill World Darts Championship
Schedule of Play

Preliminary & First Rounds
Thursday December 18
7.10pm John Part (30) v Keegan Brown
8.15pm Christian Perez v Cristo Reyes (P)
9.00pm Jelle Klaasen (29) v Christian Kist
10.00pm Michael van Gerwen (1) v Joe Cullen
11.00pm Wes Newton (13) v Christian Perez/Cristo Reyes

Friday December 19
7.10pm Andy Hamilton (12) v Dave Richardson
8.15pm Kim Viljanen v Sascha Stein (P)
9.00pm Peter Wright (5) v Gerwyn Price
10.00pm Phil Taylor (2) v Jyhan Artut
11.00pm Stuart Kellett (32) v Kim Viljanen/Sascha Stein

Saturday December 20
Afternoon Session
12.40pm Andy Smith (28) v Ronny Huybrechts
2.15pm Scott Mackenzie v Daryl Gurney (P)
3.00pm Justin Pipe (17) v Lawrence Ryder
4.00pm Robert Thornton (9) v Andrew Gilding
5.00pm Ronnie Baxter (24) v Scott Mackenzie/Daryl Gurney

Evening Session
7.10pm Steve Beaton (21) v Kyle Anderson
8.15pm Mark McGrath v Scott Kirchner (P)
9.00pm Terry Jenkins (16) v John Weber
10.00pm Simon Whitlock (7) v Darren Webster
11.00pm Gary Anderson (4) v Mark McGrath/Scott Kirchner

Sunday December 21
Afternoon Session
12.40pm Paul Nicholson (25) v Benito van de Pas
2.15pm Boris Koltsov v Haruki Muramatsu (P)
3.00pm Mark Webster (31) v Ron Meulenkamp
4.00pm Dean Winstanley (26) v Wayne Jones
5.00pm Kevin Painter (20) v Boris Koltsov/Haruki Muramatsu

Evening Session
7.10pm Kim Huybrechts (18) v Michael Mansell
8.15pm Jani Haavisto v John Michael (P)
9.00pm Dave Chisnall (8) v Ryan De Vreede
10.00pm James Wade (6) v Jamie Lewis
11.00pm Ian White (15) v Jani Haavisto/John Michael

Monday December 22
7.10pm Jamie Caven (19) v Jason Hogg
8.15pm Nolan Arendse v Alex Hon (P)
9.00pm Michael Smith (22) v Mensur Suljovic
10.00pm Raymond van Barneveld (14) v Rowby-John Rodriguez
11.00pm Brendan Dolan (11) v Nolan Arendse/Alex Hon

Tuesday December 23
7.10pm Vincent van der Voort (23) v John Henderson
8.15pm Jermaine Wattimena v Robert Marijanovic (P)
9.00pm Mervyn King (10) v Max Hopp
10.00pm Adrian Lewis (3) v David Pallett
11.00pm Stephen Bunting (27) v Jermaine Wattimena/Robert Marijanovic

Second Round
Saturday December 27
Afternoon Session
12.40pm Thornton/Gilding v Baxter/Mackenzie/Gurney
2.15pm Jenkins/Weber v Pipe/Ryder
3.45pm Wright/Price v A Smith/R Huybrechts

Evening Session
7.10pm Chisnall/De Vreede v Nicholson/van de Pas
8.40pm van Gerwen/Cullen v Kellett/Viljanen/Stein
10.15pm G Anderson/McGrath/Kirchner v Klaasen/Kist

Sunday December 28
Afternoon Session
12.40pm Hamilton/Richardson v Beaton/K Anderson
2.15pm Newton/Perez/Reyes v Painter/Koltsov/Muramatsu
3.45pm White/Haavisto/Michael v K Huybrechts/Mansell

Evening Session
7.10pm Whitlock/D Webster v Winstanley/Jones
8.40pm Taylor/Artut v M Webster/Meulenkamp
10.15pm A Lewis/Pallett v Part/Brown

Monday December 29
Afternoon Session
12.40pm Dolan/Arendse/Hon v M Smith/Suljovic
2.15pm King/Hopp v van der Voort /Henderson
3.45pm van Barneveld/Rodriguez v Caven/Hogg

Evening Session
7.10pm Wade/J Lewis v Bunting/Wattimena/Marijanovic
Third Round
8.40pm van Gerwen/Cullen/Kellett/Viljanen/Stein v Jenkins/Weber/Pipe/Ryder
10.15pm Chisnall/De Vreede/Nicholson/van de Pas v Thornton/Gilding/Baxter/MacKenzie/Gurney

Tuesday December 30
Afternoon Session
12.40pm Wright/Price/A Smith/R Huybrechts v Hamilton/Richardson/Beaton/K Anderson
2.15pm G Anderson/McGrath/Kirchner/Klaasen/Kist v Newton/Perez/Reyes/Painter/Koltsov/Muramatsu
3.45pm Whitlock/D Webster/Winstanley/Jones v King/Hopp/van der Voort/Henderson

Evening Session
7.10pm A Lewis/Pallett/Part/Brown v van Barneveld/Rodriguez/Caven/Hogg
8.40pm Taylor/Artut/M Webster/Meulenkamp v White/Haavisto/Michael/K Huybrechts/Mansell
10.15pm Wade/J Lewis/Bunting/Wattimena/Marijanovic v Dolan/Arendse/Hon/M Smith/ Suljovic

Thursday January 1

Friday January 2

Saturday January 3

Sunday January 4

The schedule of play for the quarter-finals and semi-finals will be confirmed on www.pdc.tv once finalised. The schedule of play is subject to change at the discretion of the PDC and Sky Sports. Any changes will be notified as soon as possible at www.pdc.tv. Times of matches listed here are approximate and for guidance only.

Preliminary Round – Best of seven legs
First Round – Best of five sets
Second Round – Best of seven sets
Third Round – Best of seven sets
Quarter-Finals – Best of nine sets
Semi-Finals – Best of 11 sets
Final – Best of 13 sets
All sets are the best of five legs. For all matches using the Sets format, there will be a tie-break in the deciding set only, where the final set must be won by two clear legs. Should the score in the final set reach 5-5, a sudden-death leg would be played.

Prize Fund
Winner £250,000
Runner-Up £120,000
Semi-Finalists £60,000
Quarter-Finalists £35,000
Third Round Losers £18,000
Second Round Losers £12,000
First Round Losers £8,000
Preliminary Round Losers £3,500
Total £1,250,000
In addition, a £10,000 bonus is on offer for a nine-dart finish. Should more than one nine-dart finish be hit during the tournament, the bonus would be shared on a pro-rata basis.