Gerwyn Price seems to be a man on a mission. The Grand Slam champion not only wants to prove to himself that he can be one of the best players in the world, but also to darts fans who may be questioning his meteoric rise in the sport.
Let us not forget, darts is Price’s second calling as a sportsman. Before he started flinging the tungsten, the Welshman, who turns 34 next month, was a rugby player, with spells in both codes: union and league.
Since winning his tour card on the second day of Q-School in 2014, Price has risen through the ranks of the PDC at an alarming rate. Year-by-year he has ticked off major milestones on his way to gatecrashing into the top eight of the PDC Order of Merit.
2015: first major quarter-final. 2016: broke into the top 32 and won two ProTour titles. 2017: broke into the top 16 and reached two TV finals. 2018: selected for the Premier League, broke into the top 10, won a European Tour title and a major.
But, perhaps, it is now in these early stages of 2019, we are seeing the best darts of Price’s career and, quite remarkably, at a time when there is no other player on the tour under as much scrutiny.
We do not need reminding that Price is walking an imaginary tightrope while a suspended ban hangs over his head, following the Darts Regulation Authority’s judgement to his actions in the Grand Slam final last November.
It was a final which he won, beating Gary Anderson 16-13, to land his maiden major title, and the first Welshman to do so in the PDC. But the victory was somewhat tarnished by the backlash from a lot of darts fans, saying Price had stepped over the line with his celebrations during the final.
A £20,000 fine, ironically the same amount which he has won for winning the two ProTour titles this weekend, along with another £1,500 fine for a social media post, was handed out to Price.
It was clear as Price’s memorable, and career-changing, week in Wolverhampton last Autumn came to a close, that he was being positioned by the crowd as the new bad boy in darts.
And the message was given to Price loud and clear and the tournaments which followed. He was greeted with jeers at Minehead, Alexandra Palace, and in Milton Keynes, for the Masters, earlier this month. Even in the first three weeks of the Premier League we have seen the crowd on his back.
Away from the glare of the TV cameras this weekend, Price has been able to let his darts do the talking on the ProTour, winning both tournaments and in impressive style.
On Saturday, in Players Championship 5, Price averaged 101.83 across the day, with four successive 100+ averages, including a 109 in the final, on his way to winning the tournament.
The following day Price finished with a tournament average a shade higher at 101.95, this time starting the day with four consecutive ton-plus averages, the highest being a 112 in the second round.
It was a weekend’s worth of world-class performances, and is yet another sign that Price belongs to be discussed among the elite players in the game. Replicating that level of performance on the big stage, on a consistent basis, is the next challenge for Price.
Silencing the boo boys may take a little while, but if Price can show the crowd that their efforts will not affect his game, then surely a second major title could soon be obtained. And maybe, just maybe, Price’s ability will be appreciated and we can really see just how good he can be.
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