Defending champion Phil Taylor, who won his 16th World Championship title at Alexandra Palace on New Year’s Day when he overcame 4-2 deficit to claim a famous 7-4 victory against Michael van Gerwen, will start his defence of the Sid Waddell Trophy, the more lucrative PDC version of the world crown, on the opening night of this year’s tournament on December 13th against either Rob Szabo of New Zealand or PDPA qualifier Ian Moss, who will play their preliminary round tie earlier in the night.
‘The Power’ is, unsurprisingly, a very hot favourite to lift the trophy again. He is 10/11 with most bookmakers but 15/16 is available currently on betfair. The opening night will also feature three-time world champion John Part, the first winner when the tournament was moved to Alexandra Palace in 2008. The Canadian faces Dutchman Mareno Michels but nobody rates his chances of going all the way, with bet365 offering 500/1. Veteran Richie Burnett is another in action on the opening night and Peter Wright (a general 80/1) will also take on Joe Cullen.
Such is the size of the World Championship nowadays that the first round will take eight sessions and seven days to complete. Day two will see the first appearance of former World Championship semi-finalists Wayne Jones (currently trading at 949/1 on betfair) and Terry Jenkins (389/1 on betfair), and also sees the first appearance at the oche for 2011 losing finalist Gary Anderson. ‘The Flying Scotsman’ is a general 50/1 but hasn’t been at his best this year, though did hint at a revival in the Grand Slam Of Darts before bowing out to Taylor in the quarter-finals.
Five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld faces Jamie Lewis in the first round and is a general 33/1 while there will be no love lost when brothers Kim and Ronny Huybrechts from Belgium meet. The former is expected to hold the upper hand over his sibling and is a general 50/1 to go on and win the competition. The latter is 400/1 with BetVictor.
It’s world number two Michael van Gerwen who is expected to pose the biggest threat to Taylor’s dominance, however. There will come a day when the younger man usurps the master and van Gerwen should sail though his opening match against either Zoran Lerchbacher or fellow qualifier Ben Ward. The 24-year-old became the first player to beat Taylor in two major finals in the same year in 2013, winning the Premier League, European Darts Open and Players Championship in the last 12 months. ‘Mighty Mike’ is 4/1 with Betfred, BetVictor, sportingbet and totesport and, if the champion falls short, he will probably the one to profit.
The second round will see 15 of the 16 ties completed before the Christmas break with the tournament resuming on December 27th.