An analysis of the opening weekend of the PDC Pro Tour

The 2011 PDC jamboree got off to an action packed start at the Gerry Weber Centre in Halle, Germany at the weekend with a Pro Tour double header – two Players Championship events staged on the Saturday and Sunday.

After Qualifying School and the birth of the PDC Tour Card there were some fresh faces looking to make an early impression. There were also several familiar faces hoping to put recent disappointments behind them.

Old and new were bound together by optimism in the hope that 2011 becomes a year to remember.

Out With Old?

There is a growing feeling that the tide is changing and the “old guard” are being wheeled into the darting nursing home. A number of previously glittering careers require some serious surgery and the evidence to back this up grows with every passing tournament.

Competing in Germany were Wayne Mardle (current World No. 39, hoping to put a disastrous 2010 behind him), Peter Manley (40th, dropping like a stone in the rankings and fading from memory), Raymond van Barneveld (5th, trying to overcome a fragile temperament and SECOND BOTTOM in the Premier League betting!), and, of course, Phil Taylor (relinquished his world crown and in the midst of the worst run of results of his career).

James Wade (3) can’t be described as a player in crisis but some alarming collapses towards the end of 2010 makes the early 2011 tournaments doubly important for the current World Grand Prix champion.

Throw in John Part (World No. 32), Andy Jenkins (44), Mark Dudbridge (28), and Roland Scholten (43) and there are a few players trying to arrest a slide down the rankings. Kevin Painter (21) may also be on the cusp. Others such as Jelle Klaasen (29), Michael van Gerwen (30) and Kevin McDine (37) have yet to really fulfil their promise so 2011 is an important year in their development.

Another interesting aspect is how the BDO defectees of recent years handle defending their prize money. It is one thing starting from zero and climbing the rankings as players drop the other way, but once the two year window passes all money earned has to be defended and this is when the grind kicks in. Mervyn King’s drop from top 5 to outside the top 10 in the second half of 2010 illustrates this point.

The Pro Tour invitations appear to have drawn the curtain on the careers of two players – Lionel Sams declined his tour card, so presumably we have seen the last of The Lion in the PDC, and Chris Mason has admitted defeat in his battle with fitness so has called time on his colourful career.

And so to the action. The darting gods have a habit of throwing up intriguing draws and it was little surprise to see two of the aforementioned strugglers clash in the first round on the Saturday.

Wayne Mardle would have had mixed feelings about meeting old mucker Peter Manley so early on; a winnable match definitely but Manley would have the same thoughts and it was One Dart who ran out 6-4 winner before going out to Simon Whitlock in the next round.

Sunday was no improvement, both lost in the first round (Manley to Antonio Alcinas who reached the final, and Mardle to high flying Mark Hylton). Manley earned £100 for his weekend’s work; Mardle made zilch.

John Part, Roland Scholten & Andy Jenkins all lost in round one on Saturday (Part in a reverse of his 2008 World Championship final against Kirk Shepherd); Mark Dudbridge & Kevin Painter fared better in reaching round three. Scholten & Painter crashed in round one on Sunday, Jenkins & Dudbridge managed to reach round two, and John Part beat Colin Osborne before losing to Steve Beaton in round three. Between these seven players they took home a grand total of £900 with Mardle & Scholten getting nowt.

Results weren’t much better for the two doyens of the game – Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld took home a combined £2200, not a bad weekend’s work but pitiful when weighed against expectations. Barney lost to Whitlock and Webster; Taylor crashed out to Andy Smith and Denis Ovens.

In With The New?

Of the newcomers to the Pro Tour, many of the Q School qualifiers opted not to travel to Germany and delayed the launch of their new career chapter.

James Richardson, Michael Mansell, Dyson Parody, Matt Jackson, Ian Jopling, Peter Hudson, Andy Brown, Mark Jodrill, Jason Crawley, Terry Temple, Mark Jones, Ken Dobson, Jimmy Mann, and Paul Rowley all stayed home as Dave Chisnall exploded onto the scene.

Chissy hit a 9-dart leg in his second ever game in the PDC. It came in round two against Vincent van der Voort who still managed to win the game and went on to reach the final. Chisnall lost at the same stage on Sunday to Richie Burnett.

John Henderson had comfortably the best weekend of the newcomers; in reaching the semi final on Saturday and quarter final on Sunday, Hendo may have proved he has the game to make strides in the PDC. £2400 for the effort is nice as well.

Shaun Griffiths proved himself one to watch, reaching round three on both days and claiming the scalps of Colin Lloyd and Wes Newton in the process. Another promising youngster, Adam Smith-Neale, had an equally profitable weekend also scalping Colin Lloyd along with Paul Nicholson. There is more to come from this pair in the coming months it would seem.

Shane O Connor, Magnus Caris, Michael Rosenauer, and Mick Todd all won a game or two and picked some notable wins without making a huge impact. Devon Petersen, Brian Woods and Prakash Jiwa went home winless and potless.

All that action amounted to a total prize money haul of £4300 for the newcomers, albeit heavily weighted by Henderson’s excellent showing. Only three players returned home empty handed.

A quick comparison of old and new shows that the established names have something to worry about on the evidence of the opening weekend. Nine stellar names took home a total of £3100 while ten new faces bagged £1200 more.

Mark Webster, Paul Nicholson (twice), Colin Lloyd (twice), Wayne Jones, Vincent van der Voort, Andy Smith (twice), Wes Newton all fell to the ravenous newbies who will have gained valuable experience as they their first tentative steps.

There are so many sub plots to follow this year and it will be fascinating to see if the new generation of players can displace those who have occupied the lofty positions for so long.

The Phil Taylor story is particularly intriguing as we watch the waning of a power that has ruled for two decades. We have seen false dusks before of course but this latest wobble is becoming a full on crisis. Tiger Woods relinquished his seat at the pinnacle of golf in 2010, could 2011 see the same in darts?

And if so, who will take his place? Not too long ago the names of Barneveld or Wade would have sprung instantly to mind. Nothing seems quite so certain anymore and with Lewis, Anderson & Whitlock reaching Taylor-esque heights on regular occasions the outlook is fascinating.

Game on!

About The Author