Phil Taylor has dominated darts in recent months and he has a great chance of winning the Players Championship Finals for fourth time in his incredibly successful career.
Cast one’s mind back to the middle of 2012 and bookmakers had taken the decision to promote Michael van Gerwen above Taylor in their betting markets on the annual PDC World Darts Championship because, in their eyes, The Power was running out of, er, power. But the folly of that move has been highlighted recently, with Taylor winning every event that really matters since June and going from the second favourite to the odds-on market leader for the big one.
Before the darts world moves to the Alexandra Palace in London for the PDC World Darts Championship there is the small matter of the Players Championship Finals at the Butlins Resort in Minehead. Taylor has won three of the five editions of the Players Championship Finals and his form and draw mean that The Power is worth backing at odds of 2.20 with Sky Bet to make it four from six.
In recent months Taylor has celebrated wins in the UK Open, the World Matchplay, the World Grand Prix, the Championship of Darts, the Masters and the Grand Slam Darts, pretty much vacuuming up every trophy of significance. And because of the Players Championship Finals format, Taylor has been seeded 19th and the draw has thrown up some heavyweight clashes in the early rounds. Luckily for Taylor, he has avoided the carnage, drawn beautifully in the fourth quarter, away from the first-quarter bloodbath.
For example, Adrian Lewis and Van Gerwen are on course to meet in the Players Championship Finals second round. And James Wade is likely to meet the winner of the Lewis versus Van Gerwen match in the quarter-finals. Taylor cannot meet any of the top six men in the Players Championship Finals betting until at least the semi-finals, with The Power getting his campaign under way with a first-round game against Paul Nicholson. Taylor leads Nicholson 19-2 overall and The Power has won each of their last 15 clashes.
The Players Championship Finals draw means that one cannot back anyone except Taylor, particularly as some bookmakers are offering odds better than even money about The Power’s recent run of big wins continuing. Betting on the Players Championship Finals first round is open and there are quite a few underdogs who catch the eye based on head to heads.
The most interesting Players Championship Finals first-round outsider is Terry Jenkins, who is available at odds of 2.88 with BetVictor to beat Kim Huybrechts. Jenkins and Huybrechts have met seven times previously and the former holds a 6-1 advantage. Huybrechts trailed Jenkins 6-0 before he won their latest encounter, one of three this year.
Another Players Championship Finals first-round underdog to consider backing is Michael Smith at odds of 2.88 with Boylesports to defeat Peter Wright. Smith leads Wright 2-1 and he took out their most recent meeting last month.
Justin Pipe is interesting at odds of 2.62 with BetVictor to eliminate Simon Whitlock from the Players Championship Finals. Pipe and Whitlock have met a dozen times during their respective careers, with the Englishman leading the Australian 7-5 having won three of their last four clashes.
Wayne Jones may be worth chancing at odds of 2.50 with Boylesports to oust Brendan Dolan from the Players Championship Finals. Jones leads Dolan 5-2 overall but the concern is that they have not met for more than two years.
Finally, two-time world champion Lewis has a tough Players Championship Finals opener versus Kevin Painter, who is too long at odds of 4.50 with BetVictor. Painter and Lewis have met 31 times and it is the Players Championship Finals roughie who leads 15-14 with a couple of draws as well.