2016 Cash Converters Players Championship Finals – Tournament Preview
The 2016 Cash Converters Players Championship Finals takes place this weekend at the Butlins Minehead Resort (TV coverage is screened on ITV4). This is the ninth staging of the tournament, though the format has altered this year due to the field being expanded from 32 to 64.
Qualification for the tournament was based on the 20 Players Championship events played during 2016, with the top 64 in the Players Championship Order of Merit earning their spot in the tournament. The Australian Kyle Anderson had to withdraw from competing due to awaiting the completion of his Visa renewal; Andy Hamilton is the player who replaced Anderson in the field. Phil Taylor is without doubt the biggest name absentee from the tournament, he only played in 3 of the 20 Players Championship tournaments due to cutting down on his playing schedule away from the TV tournaments and didn’t earn qualification.
As usual for the Players Championship Finals the tournament draw is based purely on the seeding from the Players Championship Order of Merit. It may come as no surprise to see Michael van Gerwen as the number one seed for the tournament but none of the remaining top four seeds are ranked in the top 10 of the main ranking list (they are Benito van de Pas (2nd), Ian White (3rd) and Simon Whitlock (4th)).
Here is the tournament draw broken down into four quarters and complete with each players best ranking tournament performances during the 2016 season.
Rather than produce an individual preview for each of the 32 matches I am going to select the following.
- The standout first round match of each quarter (that’s the match I like the look of most in each quarter).
- A match I would like to see occur in each quarter (be it in the 2nd round, 3rd round or quarter-final).
- The two players I predict to meet in each quarter-final.
Standout First Round Match: Mensur Suljovic vs Raymond van Barneveld
It has to be doesn’t it? Both players must have been cursing their luck at this opening round draw, especially as they were drawn together in the group stage at the recent Grand Slam of Darts (Barney won on that occasion). Expect a high quality encounter from two players who are both capable of having a run deep in this tournament. It’s a tough game to call but I’ll go for van Barneveld to win 6-4.
Match I Would Like to See: Michael van Gerwen vs Raymond van Barneveld (Quarter-Final)
A clash of the Dutch giants in the quarter-finals would surely be a match to savour. Van Gerwen is sweeping aside all before him at the moment but a resurgent van Barneveld could pose a major test to Mighty Mike, don’t forget Barney was the last player to defeat MvG in a TV ranking tournament last December at the World Championships when he ended van Gerwen’s quest for a second world title. I’m not sure Barney would be able to halt the run of van Gerwen this time though and I think van Gerwen would progress.
Predicted Quarter-Final Match: Michael van Gerwen vs Adrian Lewis
This would be a repeat of last year’s final. Adrian Lewis has reached the final at this tournament in each of the last 2 years and also won the UK Open at this venue so he must feel comfortable playing here. He had some tough results at the Grand Slam which really didn’t do justice to how he played, I expect him to be motivated to perform at this tournament but he does have a tricky draw. Van Gerwen should have an easier passage to the quarter-finals and at odds on with the bookies he is very much the man to beat at the tournament. Lewis has what it takes to trouble van Gerwen but he hasn’t done it enough recently and I predict MvG will progress to the semi-finals.
Standout First Round Match: Alan Norris vs Michael Smith
Two players who are both capable of high quality darts need to arrest a losing run ahead of the World Championships. Smith has slipped out of the top 8 after a poor season, at this time last year he had just reached the semi-finals at the Grand Slam and then went on to reach the quarter-finals at the World Championship but he comes into this tournament having lost his last 9 matches and has won only 1 of his last 14 going back to September. Norris has enjoyed success this season winning a Euro Tour event in October but he has lost his last 5 matches (including all 3 at the Grand Slam) and ideally needs a win heading into the World Championships. I’ll go for a Norris 6-3 win.
Match I Would Like to See: Steve West vs Chris Dobey (Quarter-Final)
West and Dobey are both outside the top 32 in the PDC rankings but are very much on an upward curve having both reached ranking finals during the past couple of months and I think it’s only a matter of time before they are in the top 32. They are both capable of hitting a good number of 180s and I think this would be an entertaining encounter between two players who will be a tough match for anyone in their quarter.
Predicted Quarter-Final Match: Steve West vs Simon Whitlock
West and Whitlock were amongst the in-form players on tour during the months September and October, they both produced their highest level of darts for quite a while. Although they’ve had some recent defeats that halted their momentum a little I still believe that both will come into the tournament with confidence that they can have a good run and the ability to back that up. I reckon Whitlock might just prove to have the edge over the longer format.
Standout First Round Match: James Wade vs Mervyn King
Wade and King are certainly no strangers to facing off as this will be the 38th time they have met during their illustrious careers. The most famous encounter was arguably at the 2014 Masters where Wade overturned a big lead to deny King a first PDC TV title. Since then they have met 5 times and King has won 3 of those matches, including a 10-5 win at the World Matchplay earlier this year. Wade comes into the tournament having reached the final at the Grand Slam whilst King has struggled for good form since the Matchplay. Wade starts as a strong favourite but write King off at your peril he wasn’t fancied to beat Wade at the Matchplay but overturned the odds and that makes this match all the more intriguing.
Match I Would Like to See: Gary Anderson vs Stephen Bunting (Last 32)
Gary Anderson played some excellent darts last week at the Grand Slam; he scored well and finished well for most of the tournament and looks to be running into good shape ahead of his World Championship defence. Bunting hasn’t enjoyed the best of times in TV ranking tournaments over the last 18 months having not gone further than the last 16 stage in one since the 2015 UK Open, it hasn’t always been a case of Bunting not performing as some of this is down to opponents playing out of their skin but the bottom line is he is long overdue a good run in a TV ranking tournament. Maybe a match against Anderson would bring out the best in Bunting and if they both turned up playing something near their best darts it would surely be a treat of a match.
Predicted Quarter-Final Match: Kim Huybrechts vs Peter Wright
When Kim Huybrechts reached the quarter-finals at the World Grand Prix in October it was has only his 2nd TV ranking quarter-final since he reached the final of this event back in 2012, this record is a big underachievement given his talent. He should be a slight favourite to come through his section of this quarter though may have to come through tough matches against Gurney and van de Pas to do so. Wright has a good opening draw against Jason Wilson but then may have to win back to back games against Wade and Gary Anderson to reach the quarter-finals, this isn’t beyond him though as he has shown on countess occasions he has the ability to beat the best and his consistency gives him a good chance of making it through those matches.
Standout First Round Match: Mark Webster vs Terry Jenkins
Mark Webster and Terry Jenkins have both featured in the later stages of TV tournaments down the years, although not so much recently, they still have the ability to turn on the style and are capable of a good run in this quarter of the draw. Surprisingly this is only their third meeting since 2012 (they met last December at the World Championships and in October in the German Darts Championship).
Match I Would Like to See: Dave Chisnall vs Jelle Klaasen (Last 16)
Just typing out this fixture gives me visions of a fast, frantic and fabulous game littered with 180s, high scores and rapidly taken high combination finishes, pretty much an all-round thrilling game of darts. When at their peak they are such a joy to watch but they also both have inconsistencies that make this potential match all the more intriguing. Klaasen has won his last 4 matches against Chisnall; will this be a factor in the final outcome?
Predicted Quarter-Final Match: Jelle Klaasen vs Mark Webster
It would be a match between two former BDO World Champions who have never truly fulfilled their potential in PDC TV tournaments. Klaasen has been playing better over the last couple of years than when he won the Lakeside and I think he’s going to be in a PDC TV tournament final before long. To reach the quarter-finals Klaasen may have to win back to back matches against James Wilson and Chisnall. Webster might not be showing his best darts regularly on the tour but he still has what it takes to pop up in the quarter-finals of a TV tournament as he proved at the UK Open back in March (at this venue). It wouldn’t be an easy route for Webster to reach the quarter-finals but he’s capable.
Finally some tournament information
Players Championship Finals Schedule
Friday November 25
Afternoon Session (12.45pm) & Evening Session (7pm) – First Round
Saturday November 26
Afternoon Session (12.45pm) – Second Round
Evening Session (7pm) – Third Round
Sunday November 27
Afternoon Session (12.45pm) – Quarter-Finals
Evening Session (7pm) – Semi-Finals and Final
The Format per Round is:
First Round – Best of 11 legs
Second Round – Best of 11 legs
Third Round – Best of 19 legs
Quarter-Finals – Best of 19 legs
Semi-Finals – Best of 21 legs
Final – Best of 21 legs
There will be no tie-break in any match.
Players Championship Finals Prize Fund
Third Round £7,500
Second Round £5,000
First Round £2,500
Nine-Dart Finish Bonus £35,000
Players Championship Finals: Past Finals
2009 Phil Taylor 16-9 Robert Thornton
2010 Paul Nicholson 13-11 Mervyn King
2011 (Feb) Phil Taylor 13-12 Gary Anderson
2011 (Dec) Kevin Painter 13-9 Mark Webster
2012 Phil Taylor 13-6 Kim Huybrechts
2013 Michael van Gerwen 11-7 Phil Taylor
2014 Gary Anderson 11-6 Adrian Lewis
2015 Michael van Gerwen 11-6 Adrian Lewis
I hope you have enjoyed reading my preview, don’t forget you can find me on twitter @3dartanalyst and let me know your views.