Whether you believe in there being a ‘triple crown’ in the PDC, which Sky Sports sometimes refer to as the World Championship, Premier League and World Matchplay, or not, there is no getting away from how lucrative those three tournaments are in world darts.
Despite all of the challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic over the last year, the prize money has not suffered. In fact, it has increased in some cases. This year’s Premier League boasts a £855,000 prize pot, with £250,000 going to the champion on finals night.
It is quite comfortably the second largest winner’s cheque in the sport, only second to the £500,000 jackpot at Alexandra Palace at the end of the season. The World Matchplay’s £150,000 first-place prize sits in third on the list.
So, putting aside the ‘what’s a major’ and ‘what’s a triple crown event’ talk to one side, when we discuss the biggest sums of money that can be won in darts, the World Championship, Premier League and World Matchplay complete the podium.
It has been two years since Michael van Gerwen has held any of those three titles. The last of those victories, the 2019 Premier League, was exactly two years ago last Sunday.
That success at the O2 brought van Gerwen his fifth Premier League title, just one short of Phil Taylor’s record haul of six, and with it being his fourth in a row, it appeared to be only a matter of when the Dutchman would move level with Taylor on six.
However, that sixth Premier League crown would prove elusive the following year. In the midst of the pandemic, and the 2020 season completed behind closed doors, van Gerwen finished sixth and missed out on the play-offs for the first time.
A sixth Players Championship Finals title last November put van Gerwen back in the winners’ enclosure on TV, but his latest bid for a fourth World Championship ended in a 5-0 defeat to Dave Chisnall in the quarter-finals.
It was Chisnall’s first victory over van Gerwen on TV since October 2013. Van Gerwen had not lost to Chisnall in their previous 27 meetings in front of the TV cameras, but a 107 average from his rival led to the streak being broken.
Fast forward to this week, the return of fans for the first time in 2021 and the final week of this year’s Premier League season. The quartet who finish the league phase in the top four after tomorrow’s final league night will have less than 24 hours to prepare for the play-offs the following day.
Van Gerwen is the first player to have secured a spot in Friday’s finale, by virtue of beating Gary Anderson 8-4 last night. He concludes his league campaign with matches against Jose De Sousa and Peter Wright over the next two nights.
Last night’s win also moved van Gerwen back to the top of the table, so the equation is simple. Two victories against De Sousa and Wright will secure him the number one seed on finals night and the £25,000 bonus for finishing top.
That van Gerwen finds himself in such a strong position, despite not being at his best for most of the season so far, perhaps suggests a missed opportunity for the rest of the field.
While some nights at Milton Keynes’ Marshall Arena have featured 109, 107 (twice) and 104 averages from him, his results sheet has also included averages of 87, 90, 91 and 92. This from a player who, only four years ago, averaged 100+ in all of his 18 matches played in the 2017 Premier League.
Currently third on the PDC Order of Merit, his lowest position since 2013, a Premier League title would not alter van Gerwen’s ranking and his bid to reclaim the number one spot. That challenge will have to wait until the second half of the year.
But a Premier League title, even with the absence of Gerwyn Price, the reigning world champion and world number one, who sadly tested positive for Covid-19 before a dart was thrown, would at least go some way to reasserting van Gerwen’s once long-held status as the king of darts.
It has been a while since van Gerwen has sat on that throne, probably the longest time since that first Premier League triumph on debut in 2013. He is potentially only a few days away from taking his seat back at the top of the table.
2021 Premier League (table after 14 of 16 nights)
|Michael van Gerwen (Q)||14||8||3||3||20||30||19|
|Jose De Sousa||14||7||4||3||17||33||18|
|Dimitri Van den Bergh||14||6||3||5||2||32||15|
|Rob Cross (E)||9||3||1||5||-3||17||7|
|Glen Durrant (E)||9||0||0||9||-39||7||0|
Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC