Professional Darts: First half review, of 2022

The year started with Peter Wright winning his 2nd World Championship at the age of 51, the oldest player to do so in nine years since Phil Taylor took the trophy back in 2013. Since then, this year has seen some pro players stand up and show their talent, others have fallen by the wayside somewhat. So what has happened since the World champs that saw Steve Beaton make a record-breaking 31st consecutive World Championship appearance and young William Borland land a nine-darter in a thrilling last-leg decider?

This year we’ve had injuries hit players so far with Nathan Aspinall’s tendinitis (tennis elbow). Peter Wright (with suspected gallstones). James Wade spent three nights in a German hospital after he became "extremely unwell" during the European Open. Gerwyn Price’s hand injury called “an accident” by the 2021 champ and not done whilst in training for a charity boxing match.

No, not at all! MVG missed the World Cup of Darts earlier in June as he had surgery to fix carpal tunnel syndrome in his throwing arm as he said he had felt “a tingling sensation in my throwing hand and arm". Back after surgery, he lost his first round match in the Dutch Darts Masters at Amsterdam to the 2022 UK Open Champion, Danny Noppert 6-4. These injuries don’t even mention the “C” word as Covid has struck many pro players just this year alone, again! So what else has happened at the oche so far in 2022?

The Premier League looked like the world champ, Peter Wright would take out the competition with ease after the first night of 17 where he won easily, 6-1 over Welshman, Jonny Clayton. But that was far from the case as the next 16 league nights threw up nothing but surprise after surprise. As each week went by, it was looking like Jonny Clayton or Michael van Gerwen (MVG) would take the title as they led the league with four nights won each. But first time Premier League player, who some suggested did not deserve to be there at the start, Joe Cullen had other ideas. He was picked as the last player into the Premier League after winning the Masters in late January. The final night saw the 4th place Cullen beat the top ranked Clayton to go into the final.

Then in the final, Joe Cullen had a championship dart at a double, D16 (his favourite) and missed. MVG, hit D14 with his next dart and as they say, the rest is history as MVG won the final 11-10. Cullen proved many people wrong as he showed then and since that he is a world class player. Highlights of the Premier League saw Gerwyn Price land two nine-dart finishes in a night in round 3 to prevail on an extraordinary night of darts. By the end of the competition and at the other end of the table, the back-to-back world champion from 2015/16, Gary Anderson finished last and showed if you don’t practise, you don’t get.

Early February saw Robert Thornton produce a dominant display to defeat the three-time world champion Martin Adams to lift the inaugural World Seniors Championship title at the Circus Tavern. Earlier Kevin Painter knocked out Phil “the power” Taylor in a bit of a shock win to advance to the semi-finals.

In early March Peter Wright, whilst he is the current World Champ, finally took over the world no.1 ranking off Gerwyn Price. (The world rankings are based on PDC ranking events prize money within the last 2 years.) Also, Dutchman Danny Noppert defeated Michael Smith 11-10 to win the UK Open and set tongues wagging that Smith may always be the bridesmaid and never the bride, so to speak. That final was far from a spectacle as Danny won in the final with just a 84.82 average. Not normally a winning average at the world’s best level.

This year has seen two players bust scores on TV by hitting maximums. Ron Meulenkamp busted by hitting a 180 while on 163 at the International Darts Open in Riesa in late February. What was he thinking? Then Jose de Sousa busted a 181 score with a 180 at the World Cup of Darts earlier in June and faked out both the camera man and producer who were focused elsewhere on his last dart. Funny? Hmmm, Yeah. But perhaps proof that professional dart players can be so focused on their job at hand that they can forget where they are actually at in a leg of darts. But that’s nothing. In late March in the first round of the Players Championship 5, English darts professional, Jamie Hughes miscounted on an attempted nine-dart finish. He hit 180, then 177 leaving 144. He then hit a T20 with his 7th dart, then switched and hit T19 with his 8th! That left him on 27. Ouch! Those opportunities don’t come round every day. He laughed it off but I’m sure inside he would have been seething. The following week Raymond van Barneveld rolled back the years with a beautiful nine-dart finish during the Players Championship 7 in Germany.

In early April Northern Irishman, Neil Duff was a popular winner of the WDF World Darts Championship but on the women’s side, Beau Greaves became the youngest ever darts World Champion at just 18 years old. She hit a 92.05 average to beat her English compatriot, Kirsty Hutchinson 4-0 in the final. In mid-April Luke Humphries showed his world class standard when he beat or whitewashed Michael van Gerwen (MVG) 7-0 in the semi-final then beat Martin Lukeman in the final to clinch his first European Tour title at the German Darts Grand Prix. Peter Wright also vowed to stop his “stupid tinkering” of his darts in probably the biggest “yeah right” moment so far this year.

May saw Michael van Gerwen collect a third PDC European Tour title of 2022 with a superb 8-5 win over Dimitri Van den Bergh at the European Darts Open final in Leverkusen, Germany. Then finally, Michael Smith showed his class and secured his first (and second) title of 2022 as he clinched back-to-back Pro Tour titles with success at the Players Championship 14 and 15 in Wigan. His quarter final in the latter saw him hit a nine darter too. Smith went on to take out the US Darts Masters in style in New York 3 1/2 weeks later over MVG 8-4 in the final. That tournament in New York saw some spice as MVG beat US pro Jules van Dongen 6-4 in the first round. MVG later suggested to the press that Jules had to whip up the crowd as he was “in the game of his life” and also suggested that “he doesn’t have 20 per cent of the talent I’ve got”. Van Dongen later tweeted that “D**** come in all shapes and sizes, sometimes they wear green jerseys (which he subsequently deleted) and was seen in the crowd in the latter part of the tournament with a sign that said “MVG is 1% as good looking as JVD.” Haha, good on him!

Simon Whitlock showed he was coming into some form in late May by hitting 3 x bullseyes for a 150 finish in his 3rd round demolition of Daniel Larsson 6-1 in the Dutch Darts Championship. Whilst he lost in the 1/4 final against Callan Rydz, it was a warning shot of what was to come from him at the World Cup of Darts three weeks later. Ranked 5th, Whitlock teamed up with Damon Heta to beat top seeds England (Michael Smith & James Wade) in the semi’s. They then went on and did the unthinkable by beating Wales (Jonny Clayton & Gerwyn Price) in the final to become the World Cup of Darts Champions for Australia for the first time ever.

Locally we have seen Haupai “Hopes” Puha chase his dream at the WDF World Darts Championship in early April and Ben “Big Rigg” Robb and Warren “Wazza” Parry fly New Zealand’s flag and make the second round of the World Cup of Darts. Those three players top the NZ Darts Council rankings in 2022 so far. On the women’s side Wendy Harper leads the NZDC rankings in NZ, followed by Desi Mercer, Tine Osborne, Jo Steed and the one to watch in future, Upper Hutt’s Nicole Regnaud. NZ darts is only getting better and has a very bright future.

The last six months have proven the game of darts globally is going from strength to strength and the standard continues to get better and better. With the local tournaments calendar getting into the busy part of the season and plenty of major tournaments to come offshore, there is no doubt that we are in for some surprise and action in the second half of this year within this sport we call darts.

Straight Arrows everyone.

Paul Webber

Owner – Bullseye Darts

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square