Having got back to winning ways at the Players Championship Finals in Minehead a fortnight ago, Phil Taylor is now a 2.75 chance to lift a 16th world title, which starts at Alexandra Palace on Friday and finishes with the showpiece final on New Year’s Day.
The Power has had a below-par year, but only by his own extremely high standards. Most of the players on the PDC circuit would be delighted to win the Premier League, World Matchplay, Championship League and Players Championship Finals titles in their career, Taylor has added all those titles, and a few more minor ones, to his name in the last 12 months. To suggest that The Power is a spent force would be ludicrous, but there can be no doubting that the strength of his stranglehold on the sport is diminishing.
Including Adrian Lewis’s triumph at last year’s World Championship there have been six different winners of Major titles in the 2012 season, as Robert Thornton, Michael van Gerwen and Simon Whitlock each claimed their maiden Major crowns. Justifying the old cliché of this being one of the most open World Championships in recent history.
The Main Picks
Given the length of the tournament – the best part of three weeks – a good draw can be imperative at the PDC World Championships. With some players having to wait a week between their first and second round matches you want to be able to ease your way into the event with a couple of comfortable opening round matches.
Defending champion Adrian Lewis looks to have a nice little run to the quarters, and has shown signs of coming back into form over the past month or so. Unibet are offering a moneyback special on the Stoke man to reclaim his title, and despite a disappointing year, he does save his best for this tournament - the experience of knowing how to win at Ally Pally is invaluable.
He’s an 11.00 chance to make it three consecutive World Championship titles, something only Taylor and Eric Bristow have achieved in the history of darts. Certainly one to keep on side, and his chances undoubtedly make Unibet’s offer to refund losing outright bets if Lewis wins a standout and generous offer.
Another who has a favourable draw is the terribly out-of-form James Wade. The Machine has had his mental health problems this year, but has looked comfortable and happy at the oche at the recent Grand Slam and Players Championship Finals, despite surprise defeats in each event.
Like Lewis, Wade knows how to win Major titles, and although it’s been a while since he showed the sort of form needed to win this one, we at least know that he has it in him somewhere. He’s the sort of player that can be devastating when he gets on a role and at odds of 20.00 it’s worth taking a chance on him rediscovering his zest.
Andy Hamilton has had an incredible 18 months since scraping into the 2011 World Matchplay by the skin of his teeth and reaching the semi-finals of the event. Since then he has made the final of the 2012 World Championships, been invited to play in and qualified for the semi-finals of the Premier League and reached number eight in the world rankings.
It’ll be interesting to see how much of an effect his recent loss to Taylor at the Players Championship Finals has had on him, but if any darts player can shrug that off and move on then it’s The Hammer. He’s another one with a favourable path to the quarter-finals and at odds of 30.00 he just looks too big given that he made it to the final last year and has also previously made it to the semis back in 2007.
Shrewd bet – Lewis to make the final @ 5.50
Worth a punt – Wade to win @ 20.00
Dark horse – Hamilton to win @ 30.00