Normal business resumes this Friday as the fifth PDC Darts Masters event takes place at Arena MK in Milton Keynes. Running for three days, the tournament draws in all the usual big names to usher in a new season.
The two-time defending champion here, (yes, who else but Michael van Gerwen?) will begin as the obvious favourite, looking to lift the trophy for the third straight year. The world number one signed off 2016 with 25 tournament victories before finishing the season in due style by winning the 2017 World Championship. After a three-week break, he is ready to roll again.
Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor is expected to take ‘the Barney route’ and enjoy a reduced schedule this year. The Power is waning and (as welcome as any success he enjoys would be) his declining force has rewarded us with the longest price I have seen on an outright Taylor win for as long as I can remember: 14/1 with both Betway and Bet365, so take your pick.
As proven earlier in the month at the Ally Pally, the closest threat to Mighty Mike will continue to come from Gary ‘The Flying Scotsman’ Anderson, two-time world champion and current world number two.
In the week of Burns’ Night, what price for a Scottish victory? That’ll be 5/1 according to both Betway and SkyBet, the latter offering an interesting 2/1 on an Anderson v MVG final. A look through the schedule below and this appears to be entirely likely, given the potential semi-final meet up between Anderson and Peter Wright.
Of course, the other challenger also counts as a Scot, despite a lacklustre 2016. As we enter the official 2017 schedule, nothing has changed for Peter ‘Snakebite’ Wright. A major final or even title will surely happen for the guy this year, but will it come this early on or will he make us wait? I’m guessing the latter. Nevertheless, he is at 10/1 across the board and double figures on the world number three always looks inviting.
Adrian Lewis at 28/1, Raymond Van Barneveld at 28/1, Dave Chisnall at 33/1 and James Wade at 33/1 are the other standout names in the 16-player event, but I’ll go ahead and mark them down as “also rans” before a dart has been chucked.
The Masters has a top prize of £60,000 and will be broadcast live on ITV4.
The Masters Schedule
First round (best of 19)
Friday January 27 (19:00 GMT)
- Dave Chisnall v Raymond van Barneveld
- Phil Taylor v Michael Smith
- Gary Anderson v Benito van de Pas
- Peter Wright v Ian White
Saturday January 28 (19:00 GMT)
- Mensur Suljovic v Jelle Klaasen
- James Wade v Robert Thornton
- Michael van Gerwen v Simon Whitlock
- Adrian Lewis v Kim Huybrechts
Quarter-finals (best of 19)
Sunday January 29, Afternoon Session (12:45 GMT)
- Taylor/Smith v Wright/White
- Anderson/Van de Pas v Chisnall/Van Barneveld
- Wade/Thornton v Lewis/Huybrechts
- Van Gerwen/Whitlock v Suljovic/Klaasen
Semi-finals (best of 21)
Sunday January 29, Evening Session (19:00 GMT)
- Winner QF 1 v Winner QF 2
- Winner QF 3 v Winner QF 4
Final (best of 21)
- Winner SF 1 v Winner SF 2