ANDERSON TARGETING WILLIAM HILL WORLD DARTS CHAMPIONSHIP HAT-TRICK
THE William Hill World Darts Championship begins on Thursday, with reigning champion Gary Anderson aiming to avoid an early upset in his bid to complete a hat-trick of victories in the sports' biggest tournament at London's Alexandra Palace.
A new record £1.65 million in prize money is on offer, including £350,000 to the winner, as 72 players from 22 nations compete across 15 days of action to be crowned as World Champion and secure the prestigious Sid Waddell Trophy.
With the preliminary and first rounds split across eight days, reigning World Champion Anderson begins his title defence on the opening night on Thursday, taking on qualifier Mark Frost.
"Everyone hates the first round - people who tell you that they're not under pressure are lying, because you just want to get past the first round," said Anderson.
"If you don't, you have a rubbish Christmas! It's very hard, you just want to win, and every player in the tournament will tell you it's first round nerves.
"I know the standard of players now, and if you're not on your game you're going home. The standard is getting so high now and everyone can beat everyone.
"I'll be giving it a shot. When I get there it will be a different Gary, I need to get the angry head on. If the right Gary turns up, watch out boys. If the wrong Gary turns up, you've got a chance."
Anderson, the number two seed, is the 6/1 second favourite with sponsors William Hill - behind the 8/11 odds-on favourite Michael van Gerwen - and is aiming to become only the third player in the sport's history to win three successive World Championship titles.
"If I was never to win another World Championship, I'm quite happy with what I've done," added the 46-year-old Scot. "To win it once was hard enough, to win it twice was even harder, three times might be impossible but I'm looking forward to it.
"Michael's top of the table and he's shown his class by winning 25 tournaments - this is the tournament he wants though so there's a wee bit of extra pressure on him.
"He'll say that he's not under pressure, but trust me he'll be under pressure. He's been phenomenal, his confidence is a mile high and it's going to take some game to beat him."
Thursday also sees 2004 finalist Kevin Painter taking on number 29 seed Jamie Caven in the tournament's opening fixture, with Wales' Jamie Lewis then facing Irish qualifier Mick McGowan before former World Youth Champion Michael Smith plays Ricky Evans.
Top seed Van Gerwen, the runaway world number one following his record haul of 25 tournament wins during 2016, begins his challenge on Saturday against either Canada's Ross Snook or Finland's Kim Viljanen.
Van Gerwen was also the pre-tournament favourite 12 months ago before losing out to Raymond van Barneveld in the third round, but insists: "I expect to win it because any other result for me is a disaster.
"It's not that easy, it’s going to be tough this year. I know that, but I think I've got the mental ability to fight against that for glory and pride and I think I can do that.
"The top half of the draw, my half, is going to be difficult, very hard, but that doesn't matter. If you want to win the World Championship you need to beat anyone and everyone.
"That's the main target this year. I'm ready for it. I feel good. All the pressure will be on my shoulders but who cares? I've been playing with pressure on my shoulders already for four years."
Following the conclusion of the first round on Thursday December 22, the second round will span the Christmas break with play on December 23, 27 and 28.
The third round will take place on December 28 and 29, with the quarter-finals on December 30 before the New Year sees the semi-finals on January 1 and the final on January 2.
Although the tournament has almost sold out, a small number of additional tickets for each session were released last week and are available via www.seetickets.com/darts. Details of Hospitality Packages or other ticket options can be seen at www.pdc.tv/tickets.
In addition to the £1.65 million in prize money, a £5,000 bonus is on offer for a nine-dart finish, which would also see a further £9,000 donated by William Hill to Parkinson's UK, the official charity partner of the PDC.
* The William Hill World Darts Championship will take place at Alexandra Palace, London from December 15-January 2, and will be shown live on the dedicated Sky Sports Darts channel as part of a festive season which includes Premier League football, EFL and Test match cricket.
William Hill World Darts Championship
Preliminary & First Round Schedule
Thursday December 15 (7pm)
Jamie Caven (29) v Kevin Painter
Jamie Lewis (30) v Mick McGowan
Gary Anderson (2) v Mark Frost
Michael Smith (11) v Ricky Evans
Friday December 16 (7pm)
Jerry Hendriks v Warren Parry (P)
Gerwyn Price (19) v Jonny Clayton
Steve Beaton (27) v Devon Petersen
Peter Wright (3) v Hendriks/Parry
Saturday December 17
Afternoon Session (1pm)
Tengku Shah v Masumi Chino (P)
Terry Jenkins (18) v Josh Payne
John Henderson (31) v Andrew Gilding
Benito van de Pas (15) v Shah/Chino
Evening Session (7pm)
Ross Snook v Kim Viljanen (P)
Cristo Reyes (32) v Dimitri Van den Bergh
Stephen Bunting (16) v Darren Webster
Michael van Gerwen (1) v Snook/Viljanen
Sunday December 18
Afternoon Session (1pm)
Kevin Simm v Gilbert Ulang (P)
Justin Pipe (26) v Chris Dobey
Mark Webster (25) v Joe Murnan
Ian White (14) v Simm/Ulang
Evening Session (7pm)
John Bowles v David Platt (P)
Daryl Gurney (24) v Jermaine Wattimena
Alan Norris (21) v John Michael
Phil Taylor (4) v Bowles/Platt
Monday December 19 (7pm)
Qiang Sun v Corey Cadby (P)
Mervyn King (22) v Steve West
Adrian Lewis (5) v Magnus Caris
Joe Cullen (28) v Sun/Cadby
Tuesday December 20 (7pm)
Boris Koltsov v Dragutin Horvat (P)
Brendan Dolan (23) v Christian Kist
Raymond van Barneveld (12) v Robbie Green
Simon Whitlock (17) v Koltsov/Horvat
Wednesday December 21 (7pm)
Zoran Lerchbacher v Simon Stevenson (P)
Mensur Suljovic (8) v Ron Meulenkamp
James Wade (6) v Ronny Huybrechts
Robert Thornton (9) v Lerchbacher/Stevenson
Thursday December 22 (7pm)
Jelle Klaasen (10) v Jeffrey de Graaf
Vincent van der Voort (20) v Max Hopp
Dave Chisnall (7) v Rowby-John Rodriguez
Kim Huybrechts (13) v James Wilson
Preliminary Round - Best of three sets
First Round - Best of five sets
William Hill Odds
8/11 Michael van Gerwen
6/1 Gary Anderson
9/1 Phil Taylor
10/1 Peter Wright
28/1 Dave Chisnall
33/1 Adrian Lewis, James Wade, Raymond van Barneveld
50/1 Jelle Klaasen
80/1 Mensur Suljovic
100/1 Benito van de Pas, Kim Huybrechts
125/1 Michael Smith, Simon Whitlock
150/1 Corey Cadby, Daryl Gurney, Ian White
200/1 Alan Norris, Joe Cullen, Robert Thornton, Stephen Bunting
250/1 Gerwyn Price, Mervyn King, Vincent van der Voort
300/1 Chris Dobey, Robbie Green, Steve Beaton, Terry Jenkins
400/1 Mark Webster
500/1 Christian Kist, Darren Webster, James Wilson, Jermaine Wattimena, Max Hopp, Rowby-John Rodriguez, Simon Stevenson, Steve West
750/1 Andrew Gilding, Cristo Reyes, Dragutin Horvat, John Bowles, Jonny Clayton, Justin Pipe, Kevin Painter
1000/1 Brendan Dolan, David Platt, Devon Petersen, Dimitri Van den Bergh, Jamie Caven, Jamie Lewis, Jeffrey de Graaf, Jerry Hendriks, Joe Murnan, John Henderson, John Michael, Josh Payne, Mick McGowan, Ricky Evans, Ron Meulenkamp, Ronny Huybrechts
2000/1 Mark Frost
2500/1 Kevin Simm, Kim Viljanen, Magnus Caris, Ross Snook, Warren Parry
3000/1 Boris Koltsov, Gilbert Ulang, Masumi Chino, Qiang Sun, Zoran Lerchbacher 4000/1 Tengku Shah
(1/2 Odds Place 1,2)
16/1 Rest of the World
Total Nine-Dart Finishes
13/8 Exactly One
11/4 Two or More
Player to Hit a Nine Dart Finish in Tournament
5/2 Michael van Gerwen
4/1 Gary Anderson
5/1 Phil Taylor
6/1 Peter Wright
8/1 Adrian Lewis
8/1 Dave Chisnall
12/1 Jelle Klaasen, Raymond van Barneveld
16/1 James Wade
25/1 Michael Smith, Simon Whitlock
33/1 Stephen Bunting
50/1 Alan Norris
66/1 Kim Huybrechts, Robert Thornton
(Others on request)
Total 170 Checkouts
8/1 7 or More
Odds correct at time of writing but subject to fluctuation.
For further information and latest odds, please click here.