Double start + short format = shocks and upsets.
That’s my formula for this tournament, one that many players openly declare is not exactly their favourite. Along with the Desert Classic where early starts and the short format throw up many an upset, this is an event that the established players fear and the lower ranked players relish.
Phil Taylor has won all but two of the 8 tournaments staged but both his losses came against players he would expect to beat every time. Andy Callaby, and a then much lower ranked Kevin Painter, were the men to cause the upsets and although both have since gone on to bigger and better things, at the time the were as big a shock as you will see in the game.
It’s all down to the short format. If you’re not on your game right from the start you’re in trouble. Fail to get away first throw and you’re instantly behind with very little time to recover.
Taylor often takes a few legs to warm up before steamrollering his opponent with the ruthlessness we have come to know. Warming up isn’t an option here though as the early rounds are more of a sprint and the game could be over before you know it. The only players in recent years able to live with The Power over long formats are Part and Barneveld (Priestley maybe) but this distance gives everybody a chance and don’t be surprised to see some big casualties and some lesser known names in round two.
An added ingredient this year is the battle for Premier League places and this will place untold extra pressure on those in the hunt. There are around 12 players battling for points and some have a great deal to lose. Those players successful two years ago lose the points they won in 2004 and have to equal or better that result to gain any points in 2006. This means that the likes of Baxter and Painter are up against it having done so well in 2004.
So based on all that uncertainty, here is my preview of how the first round will go and who will be breathing a sigh of relief over a pint of the black stuff, sat in round two on October 24th.
Round One – Monday October 23
Lionel Sams v John Part
First game, first shock? Possibly, but I feel this should be a win for Part. Sams is starting to show some better form on the big stage at last but I fancy Part to have just too much and sneak it.
DartsMad Prediction : Part to win 2-1
Kevin Painter v Andy Callaby
The only two men to defeat Taylor in the tournament’s history go head to head with Callaby coming through the qualifiers again. Both have shown patchy form this year but Painter did ok in Wales recently and Callaby came through the tough qualifiers. That makes this hard to call but I’ll go with Painter who may still have a chance of making the Premier League.
DartsMad Prediction : Painter to win 2-1
Andy Jenkins v Terry Jenkins
This one is easy – Jenkins will win.
DartsMad Prediction : T Jenkins to win 2-1
Anto McCracken v Mark Walsh
Shock alert. This has all the makings of an upset – Walsh has not shown the best form this year and Irish qualifier McCracken won’t have a better chance to make the second round of a major in front of his home crowd.
DartsMad Prediction : McCracken to win 2-1
Colin Lloyd v Bob Anderson
Last year’s beaten finalist Lloyd will have his work cut out here. A disappointing early exit in Blackpool means he will be keen to make amends but Anderson is a difficult draw. I don’t think Anderson’s form is quite as good this year as it has been recently and I fancy Lloyd to come through a potentially difficult test.
DartsMad Prediction : Lloyd to win 2-0
Peter Manley v Chris Mason
Arguably the tie of the first round, with Manley, one of the under-achievers of 2006, up against one of the game’s biggest under-achievers. Manley’s 2006 form has been disappointing and as a result his world ranking is slipping. His Premier League spot is also under severe threat. This could go either way and will be a real nail biter. Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve tossed a coin and it’s come down in favour of Manley. So I’m going for Mason. Yes it’s that sort of tournament.
DartsMad Prediction : Mason to win 2-1
Wayne Mardle v Denis Ovens
Now then, call this one if you can. If the double 18 is working for Mardle he should have no problem. The Heat will be truly on if it isn’t though. Ovens is a steady player who can get ahead and stay ahead. Mardle will not relish this game one bit and I for one will not be betting any money on it. The head says Mardle to sneak it though.
DartsMad Prediction : Mardle to win 2-1
Roland Scholten v Dave Askew
Once upon a time Diamond Dave looked likely to take the next step and feature heavily in the big tournaments. It hasn’t worked out that way. Like so many players he’s struggling to find that extra few percent necessary to convert good county form into tournament wins. Tripod will be focused on this as a good run could mean retaining his Premier League place. This will go with the form book.
DartsMad Prediction : Scholten to win 2-0
Tuesday October 24
Dennis Priestley v Geoffrey Matthews
Renaissance man Priestley has been in superb form all year and is top points scorer in 2006. Without taking anything for granted he will be looking towards a possible second round showdown with Adrian Lewis that may have a huge bearing on the Premier League. Matthews has earned his place here but Priestley’s form and experience will see him safely through.
DartsMad Prediction : Priestley to win 2-0
Mark Dudbridge v Steve Beaton
Beaton is defending a lot of points here having reached the semi final two years ago. He’s qualified for this and needs to do well. If he’s on his game he can take out Dudbridge who has failed to sparkle in 2006.
DartsMad Prediction : Beaton to win 2-0
Alan Warriner-Little v Raymond van Barneveld
The Iceman has suffered in recent times – a loss of form and some difficult draws has meant a drop in the rankings. Just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. Drawn against Barney with Taylor next in line is, by anybody’s admission, not the draw you’d be hoping for! The format may help and he has to blast out of the blocks hitting the doubles early. Certainly capable of getting through, Warriner would love to ruin the hopes of all those wanting to see Barney v Taylor in round 2!
DartsMad Prediction : Barneveld to win 2-0
Gareth Gray v Andy Smith
Another Irish qualifier who will have the crowd on his side, Gray will be hoping to upset the apple cart here. Or is that pie cart? Smith will need to focus in front of partisan support to ensure he isn’t one of the shocks of the first round.
DartsMad Prediction : Smith to win 2-1
Phil Taylor v Wes Newton
Can Newton follow in the footsteps of messrs Painter & Callaby and shock the holder? It’s a distinct possibility you know. Newton certainly has the game and he can start quickly. If he catches Taylor cold and hits his doubles, he could cause the biggest first round shock. It’s impossible to ever back against The Power though and I fancy Newton to take the first set with Taylor coming back to snatch the next two.
DartsMad Prediction : Taylor to win 2-1
Adrian Lewis v Barrie Bates
A good showing in Wales coupled with not defending too many points from 2004 has put Lewis right in the frame for a Premier League place. A good run here could cement a spot, particularly as Priestley & Baxter are in the firing line. Both Bates & Lewis are capable of beating anybody on their day, and both have had an excellent year so far. If I could call it a draw I would. But I can’t. So I’ll plump for Jackpot.
DartsMad Prediction : Lewis to win 2-1
Ronnie Baxter v Alan Green
Baxter will be sweating heavily on his Premier League status. By the time the Grand Prix is over he could be struggling to stay in the top ten never mind top six. He is defending 20 points so semi final is the minimum requirement here. Green makes his debut and will be hoping the pressure on Baxter works to his advantage. Possible shock on the cards.
DartsMad Prediction : Baxter to win 2-1
Paul Watton v James Wade
Watton earth can Paul do to halt the darting juggernaut that is James Wade in 2006? He will have to play the game of his life and I can’t see this being anything other that a straight sets victory for Wade whose confidence is currently sky high.
DartsMad Prediction : Wade to win 2-0
JOHN GWYNNE’S SKY BET WORLD GRAND PRIX PREVIEW
Sky Sports’ John Gwynne, who will be in Dublin commentating on one of the PDC’s ‘majors’, gives his views on what might unfold.
Already, the eighth World Grand Prix. It was back in 1999 that the inaugural event took place, in Rochester, Kent, taking the slot in the darts calendar which had belonged to the World Pairs. It moved to Ireland, to Rosslare, in 2000 but, since 2001, it has been at the City West Hotel in Saggart, a dozen miles or so from Dublin. That was the year Kevin Painter, making his PDC TV bow, put out twice previous winner and hot favourite, Phil Taylor, in the first round, coming from a set down to do so. Alan Warriner went on to win the event, of course.
Painter starts with a match against Andy Callaby, the only other player to have beaten ‘The Power’ at City West. It’s generally known that the two don’t get on, so expect a ‘no-prisoners-taken’ affair here!
Meanwhile, Alan Warriner-Little has to contend with Raymond van Barneveld and, should he win, he will probably face Phil Taylor in the second round. I honestly do not fancy Wazza’s chances! He will not be feeling the same way, though. Knowing Alan as I do, he will see it as a supreme challenge and one, which if he overcomes, will resurrect his career.
Two fine players, whose careers have taken something of a dip in the past twelve to eighteen months, Mark Dudbridge and Steve Beaton, meet each other. There is a golden opportunity for the winner to go on to rediscover his best form.
I do not know all the players in the competition – it’s that kind of event, having Irish qualifiers – but four of the sport’s best-known have early engagements. Peter Manley against Chris Mason is mouth-watering, while Colin Lloyd against Bob Anderson is tasty, too. I like the look of Adrian Lewis up against Barrie Bates as well, one of the most difficult to predict.
When it comes to predictions, I’m not the best around. The fact that there is a double-to-start factor in Ireland makes it that much more unpredictable, too.
However, I’m going for a Taylor/Scholten quarter-final with Taylor having disposed of Barneveld and Scholten having come through matches against Askew and then Dudbridge or Beaton.
I think Adrian Lewis will get past Barrie Bates and do to Dennis Priestley what he did to him in the semi-final of the World Series of Darts in the USA in May, also to move into the last eight. He will meet James Wade, in my view, in a near-kindergarten affair, after Wade has taken out Bonnie Baxter.
Wayne Mardle’s mission for points in order to make it into the Premier League ought to spur him on. He told me that he was definitely going to go for double top to start. I am backing him to oust Denis Ovens and Andy Smith to set up a quarter-final encounter with Chris Mason who will have had to have beaten Manley and, gaining revenge for a world championship defeat, John Part.
The fourth quarter-final will feature Colin Lloyd and Kevin Painter, I believe. It’s hard to leave out the two Jenkins boys, the form they’re in, but that’s my final say on the matter.
I’ll update again when the last-eight stage is reached.
GWYNNIE’S LAST-EIGHT: Taylor v Scholten; Lewis v Wade; Mardle v Mason; Lloyd v Painter.
ICEMAN’S SKY BET WORLD GRAND PRIX PREVIEW
The 7th World Grand Prix takes place at the City West golf complex over in
the Emerald Isle in Saggart, just south of Dublin, on Monday 23rd October
2006. The final is on Sunday 29th October 2006 and SKY TV have all
the week’s action live. We will be promised some excellent darts and plenty of upsets due to the format of a double start and a double finish.
It is one of my favourite events for two reasons; firstly because it is an event
which I have always done well in, and of course won in 2001. I also reached the final in
2004. Secondly, because of my involvement with the Irish as I now have an
Irish manager and do a lot of Exhibitions over there and have made many
I shared a room with a good mate of mine at an event last weekend and if we
both win our first round matches we will play each other in round two, so we were both winding each other up. But two players stand in the way of our first TV meeting,
Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld! I play Ray and Wes Newton plays Phil
so its no holds barred. Watch the action at the City West for at least two upsets!