Gary Anderson could be biggest threat to Michael van Gerwen
Adrian Lewis is tempting at big odds
Sky Sports Main Event, Mix & Arena
Starts 7pm Thursday
Darts fans will take one last walk in a Taylor wonderland this Christmas as the great man bids farewell to top-flight arrers, but one of The Power’s true modern-day rivals could be wearing the crown at Alexandra Palace on New Year’s Day.
Gary Anderson, seeded third but rightly second favourite behind majestic Michael van Gerwen, comes to life on the Ally Pally stage where he has appeared in four of the last seven William Hill World Championship finals, winning the title twice.
When he’s in the mood, the super smooth Scot is irresistible and one of less than a handful of stars with a realistic chance against Mighty Mike.
Bookmakers say it’s Van Gerwen’s to lose. The undisputed world number one, defending champion and worthy heir to Phil Taylor, goes off an 8-11 shot and he could conceivably make a nonsense of those odds.
But tying down cash on an odds-on chance over Christmas and New Year, especially one who has already failed to trouser the two most recent of the established Majors – the Matchplay and the Grand Prix – won’t be everyone’s idea of a sound investment.
This is the classiest and deepest field ever assembled for a world championship with pitfalls popping up all over the draw.
The dangers are everywhere. Second seed Peter Wright is now a Major winner, Barney is a five-time world champ, Adrian Lewis has won this twice before, Daryl Gurney and Mensur Suljovic have surged into the reckoning after stellar years and then there’s Rob Cross, the most talked-up outsider of the lot.
Plus, of course, The Power, a 12-1 shot who would dearly love to put Van Gerwen in his place one last time, just as he did in the quarter-finals of the World Matchplay in Blackpool, where the 16-time world champion turned back the clock in vintage style.
Experience and pedigree count for plenty in this event. Wright, seeded 16th when he reached the 2014 final, is the only one of the last ten finalists to have come from outside the top seven in the world.
Anderson has won five events in a 2017 campaign where his workload hasn’t been excessive and he’s so happy off the oche – he has become a dad again – that he’s equally at ease on it. And when Anderson is relaxed (and he’s in the opposite half of the draw to his bete noir Mensur Suljovic, which will please him) he is mesmerisingly good.
He looks to have a favourable draw to the quarters where Taylor may well lie in wait.
The two big question marks are over Wright, who has been in and out of hospital this month, and Cross, who is making his debut.
The Sussex shooter has been talked up after a phenomenal first year on tour. But excluding the first PDC world championship, only two debutants – Kirk Shepherd and Simon Whitlock – have reached the final at the first attempt.
It’s anyone’s guess how Cross will cope and bear in mind he failed to make much of an impact at any of the Coral UK Open, Matchplay or Grand Prix. He’s 7-4 to win his quarter and a better value bet is to take the 18-1 about Michael Smith, a player who is unstoppable when he flicks the switch and looks more focused than he has been for 18 months.
Working on the old adage that form is temporary, class is permanent (and throwing in that pedigree is vital), that brings us to a couple of big-priced outsiders to consider. Raymond van Barneveld at 66-1 is eye-watering, as is Adrian Lewis at around half that price. Jackpot, housed in the relatively quiet third quarter, gets a thumbs-up.
Yes, he’s had a quiet spell on the oche but the world champ in 2011 and 2012 is a man for the occasion on the biggest of stages and getting to the semis of the Matchplay illustrates he’s more than capable.
If Anderson doesn’t emerge from the bottom half, Lewis might.
2pts 73-10 188bet
1pt e-w 33-1 general
M Smith to win the second quarter
1pt 18-1 BoyleSports
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