On a day which saw BDO world champion Glen Durrant win his second PDC title, ALEX MOSS picks out five talking points to come out of Players Championship 15 on Saturday…
1. Glen Durrant back to number one… well sort of!
That’s right, Glen Durrant has reclaimed top spot on the Order of Merit. Ok, it might not be the PDC’s main order of merit, but Duzza’s victory in Players Championship 15 today has propelled the former BDO number one to the top of the Players Championship Order of Merit.
The £10,000 accrued for today’s win in Barnsley takes Durrant just £500 ahead of James Wade, a three-time Players Championship winner this year, but away from the race to Minehead he is continuing to make major progress.
Now up to 68th on the main order of merit, Durrant also looks assured of a debut at the World Matchplay in July (he is currently fourth out of the 16 provisional qualifiers on the Pro Tour list).
Durrant’s first PDC title, at Players Championship 4 in February, was special, but this one is perhaps even more special for the reigning BDO world champion.
A 7-2 win in the battle of the world champions against Michael van Gerwen, in the semi-finals, was just one of several impressive performances at the oche for Duzza today.
He kicked off the day with back-to-back 6-0 wins, and also recorded wins over Danny Noppert and Michael Smith, plus an 8-1 thrashing of Darius Labanauskas in the final.
2. Big D making his mark
Darius Labanauskas is flying the flag for Lithuanian darts and what a fine job he is doing.
The final did not go to plan, losing 8-1 to Glen Durrant, but it was another milestone ticked off for “Lucky D”, becoming the first player from Lithuania to reach a PDC ranking final.
He came through two last-leg deciders to get to the final, including in the first round against Gabriel Clemens, and also in the last 16 against another player in form, Steve Beaton.
Like Durrant, this is Labanauskas’ first year as a tour card holder on the PDC circuit, but he is already beginning to show the quality he is capable of and what we first saw during his time playing on the BDO tour.
A late change to the line-up for the World Cup, Lithuania replacing Switzerland, means we will see Labanauskas on our screens next month. Another landmark for Big D!
3. Ian White returns to the top 10
It wasn’t to be another final for one of the in-form players in darts right now, Ian White, today, but his run to the last eight in Barnsley did achieve something notable.
The newly-crowned European Darts Grand Prix champion is back in the top 10, replacing Simon Whitlock, following today’s appearance in the quarter-finals.
On current form, you could say White is playing even better than his ranking suggests. Even today, heading into the last eight it would not have been unwise to back Stoke’s number one to go all the way again.
White was playing at a high level right from the get go today, averages of 101, 102, 98 and 107 in wins against Madars Razma, Dimitri van den Bergh, Ryan Searle and Krzysztof Ratajski.
But it was Ron Meulenkamp who brought White’s winning run, capped at nine games, to a halt, coming through 6-5 in a last-leg decider.
4. Another giant-killing for Rafferty
When we talk about young players to keep an eye out for, Nathan Rafferty has to be high on the list.
The Northern Irish ace rose to fame when he knocked out Peter Wright, then the defending champion, at the UK Open, last year.
Rafferty narrowly missed out on a tour card at Q-School in January, getting down to the last eight on the final day, but he showed his mettle by reaching a final on the Challenge Tour less than a week later.
Despite not having a tour card, Rafferty has appeared in 11 of the 15 Players Championship events so far this year, and today was his third run to a last 16 in them.
In the last 32 today, Rafferty averaged close to a 100 in beating five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld 6-3. He also beat another former world champion, Stephen Bunting, in the opening round.
5. Two in, two out for Blackpool line up
As each week passes, the race to qualify for the World Matchplay edges closer and closer to a conclusion.
After today’s events, my co-host on the podcast, Burton DeWitt, points out two changes to the 32-player field, as Kyle Anderson and Chris Dobey have replaced Mervyn King and Ross Smith.
After Players Championship 16 tomorrow, there are just five events left before the cut off. However, this weekend is a crucial one, as it started with two European Tour qualifiers on the Friday night.
Ryan Searle and James Wilson, currently 12th and 13th on the provisional list of Pro Tour qualifiers for Blackpool, are right to be looking over their shoulders after both failed to qualify for either of ET7 or ET8 on Friday.
Picture: PDC TV