The 20th staging of the World Grand gets underway at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin where we see set play and the ‘Double in, Double out’ format.
The field is 32-strong with the top 16 in the PDC Order of Merit and the top 16 on the Pro Tour going head to head.
11-time winner and retiring Phil Taylor withdrew from the event meaning 2015 champion Robert Thornton sneaks in.
It is no surprise to see Michael van Gerwen the odds-on favourite given he’s a three-time winner and defending champion.
He didn’t play particularly well in the Champions League of Darts when exiting in the group stage having lost to Raymond van Barneveld and Phil Taylor.
However there wasn’t much surprise in that exit given he had his attentions and priorities elsewhere after he became a father for the first time.
The world number one says he’s more focused now heading into this major but his performances in the Players Championship events over the last couple of days suggests he could be vulnerable.
On Friday he lost 6-5 to Vincent van der Voort in the Last 32 and then yesterday it was a quarter-final exit at the hands of Mensur Suljovic after beating Raymond van Barneveld earlier on in the day.
From the majority of reports I’ve read suggest ‘Mighty Mike’ was out of sorts and not performing at his best but we all know what he is capable of on the big stage.
For me he doesn’t have any easy games given he potentially faces Alan Norris in the second round before a clash with Raymond van Barneveld in the quarter-final.
At his price he’s no sort of bet for me and I’m not sure people should be lumping on him like it’s a foregone conclusion.
The next two in the market are Gary Anderson and Peter Wright. Once again both undoubtedly are of high quality but for me aren’t always the most reliable.
Anderson was runner-up in this last year and that was his best run in the competition while Wright has never gone further than the Last 16 and that was in 2014.
We saw ‘Snakebite’ lift the International Darts Open trophy last week in Germany after defeating Kim Huybrechts in the final in a deciding leg.
That came after a dismal showing in the Champions League and unsurprisingly it saw him tinker with his darts once more.
I’d be taking Wright on in this being the doubles in and out format and the fact that the outer segment of the board can be his Achilles heel – that’s something he showed when he spurned six match darts in the Premier League final.
That’s the worry with Wright while it’s a similar worry with Anderson, however the bigger worry for the Scot is that he has a certain Mensur Suljovic in his path.
That could be a potential semi-final clash against his Austrian nemesis and one player that ‘The Flying Scotsman’ has admitted he hates playing.
It’s Suljovic that I’d be backing at the prices given the form he’s showed in recent months.
He arrived in Germany last week looking to defend his International Darts Open crown but lost in the Last 16 in a deciding leg to Gerwyn Price despite hitting 71% of his doubles and averaging 102.
It’s taken ‘The Gentle’ a while to earn the credit he deserves or even reach his potential but he has excelled in the last couple of years and that showed in the Champions League.
He beat Wright, Anderson and Chisnall in his group before seeing off van Barneveld in the semi final.
In the final he only averaged 87 but his finishing gave him the victory as he took out a number of crucial doubles at key times.
With him arriving here riding the crest of a wave having also won the Players Championship event here yesterday – beating Stephen Bunting in the final – then his odds are too juicy to ignore.
He may face Wright in the quarter final and then Anderson in the semi final but he’s proven in recent months that he can beat them and for me he can repeat those victories on the Citywest stage.
You need a solid doubles hitter in this event and that’s what the unorthodox Austrian offers, especially on his trusty D14.
There are two more players I want to mention in short. The first is Rob Cross, who I’ve touched on before.
This is his debut in the event but so far this season he’s recorded 27 wins against the top 16 players in the world and earned another trophy on Friday winning the players Championship event.
In the semi final he averaged 109 and then he beat Peter Wright 6-2 in the final with a 113 average, a 67% checkout success rate plus five 180s.
‘Voltage’ has the all-round game to match the bigger and the more established names, so he could be one to pull off a few big results along the way.
The other man is currently priced up at 150/1 in the betting and that is Kim Huybrechts, who is one of the better doubles hitters for me.
The Belgian has had an up and down season but he always comes good at this time of the year having won all three of his titles in September or later.
In the International Darts Open he reached the final, narrowly losing. He may not have the highest of averages but he generally matches his opponents scoring and if given a sniff of snatching a leg he’ll take it on the double.
‘The Hurricane’ consistently hits around 50% of his doubles and on the outer segment he’s as good as any, so for me he’s a man coming into a decent bit of form and could be a dangerous proposition in the second quarter.
Mensur Suljovic (28/1 – Ladbrokes)
As I touched upon in the above writing on the outright piece there are a number of bets in the quarter betting.
If you don’t fancy Suljovic to win it then the 7/2 on him to win his quarter is something I’d have to consider because I think he offers more than Wright in the betting in that market.
Then there is Huybrechts in the second quarter, which does look the most open with it including Daryl Gurney, Dave Chisnall and Adrian Lewis but the Belgian can see off ‘Chizzy’, who isn’t one I can trust on doubles in the second round before what could be a decent little game against Gurney in the quarter final, which I can see him prevailing in.
Gary Anderson has the easiest of the quarters and he’s unsurprisingly odds-on to win that section of the draw, which I think he will.
However I wouldn’t be having Michael Smith or Simon Whitlock in as second and third favourites respectively in the market.
Former rugby player Gerwyn Price could offer some value in that section because I believe ‘The Iceman’ is one of the best bets of the first round to see off the seeded Smith. It’s a case of whether the Welshman can see off Anderson in the quarter final!
Kim Huybrechts to win Quarter 2 (9/1 – Boylesports)
Mensur Suljovic to win Quarter 4 (7/2 – Various)
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