MICHAEL VAN GERWEN began his challenge to win a third successive title at the Mr Green Sport Players Championship Finals with a 6-2 win over Paul Nicholson on Friday, as Steve Hine knocked out Peter Wright in Minehead.
Reigning champion Van Gerwen met 2010 winner Nicholson in their first round tie at the Butlins Minehead Resort, but was never troubled after racing into a 3-0 lead.
Nicholson, in his first TV appearance for over two years, took two of the next three to hit back to 4-2, but Van Gerwen won the next two as he moved through to play Steve West, who overcame Somerset's Ryan Searle 6-4.
"There's a lot more in the tank but it's nice to win," said Van Gerwen. "Paul had some patches where he played quite well but I hit my doubles at the right moments."
World number two Peter Wright, the UK Open champion in March on his most recent visit to Minehead and last week's Grand Slam of Darts runner-up to Van Gerwen, was the highest-profile casualty of the opening day with a 6-5 loss to Hine.
Muffin baker Hine was making his big-stage return and came from 4-2 down to lead 5-4 before Wright survived a missed match dart to force a decider, only to miss the bull for victory as the world number 104 sealed the win on double 18.
"Just to qualify for this event is hard but this is massive for me," said Hine. "Peter's the world number two and I look up to him, and hopefully this can kick on my career further."
Hine now plays Peter Jacques, the Huddersfield thrower who survived five missed match darts from Spain's Cristo Reyes to claim a 6-5 win on his Players Championship Finals debut.
Mickey Mansell knocked out 2014 champion Gary Anderson with a 6-3 triumph in their first round tie, sharing the opening four legs before taking out 80, tops and 136 to pull clear before completing the win with a 13-darter.
The Northern Irish left-hander, who now plays Jermaine Wattimena, admitted afterwards: "It's massive for me in terms of the standard of player that I've just beaten, because Gary is exceptional.
"His youngest child has been in hospital for the last two days and he's been at the bedside. His mind hasn't been on darts and it showed up there.
"On his day I love watching Gary, he's exceptional. I'm chuffed to bits to beat Gary, I still had to hit those doubles."
2011 winner Kevin Painter also exited the event in round one as he went down 6-4 to James Wade, who now plays Jamie Caven after the Derby ace survived a missed match dart before edging out Joe Cullen.
Top seed Rob Cross, a four-time Players Championship winner in his first year on the ProTour, was a 6-2 winner against Wales' Robert Owen as he moved through to face emerging Irish youngster Steve Lennon, who overcame Zoran Lerchbacher 6-4.
Number two seed Daryl Gurney punished Dutch youngster Jeffrey de Zwaan for 14 missed darts at doubles as he claimed a 6-0 whitewash win to set up a tie with Robbie Green, who survived a missed match dart to knock out Vincent van der Voort 6-5.
Adrian Lewis made an impressive return to action as he overcame Belgian youngster Mike De Decker 6-3, finishing 50 percent of his doubles, averaging 99 and taking out 129 to seal the win.
Lewis was using a new dart in the same design as Raymond van Barneveld, and admitted: "I've not won a game on TV since July and I needed to change something, and I'm probably practising as well as I've ever done.
"I'm enjoying practising and I know I can improve with these darts. As the tournament progresses I think with the longer formats you'll see the real me turn up."
Lewis now plays Richard North, who also averaged 99 on his Players Championship Finals debut as he defeated Peter Hudson 6-1.
Ian White edged past Raymond van Barneveld with a 6-5 win, surviving two missed match darts from the Dutchman in their deciding leg before returning from a miss of his own to land double ten.
White now faces John Henderson, who landed a brace of 101 finishes as he pulled clear from one-all to win 6-2 against Darren Johnson.
Mensur Suljovic raced past Andy Boulton 6-0 with a ruthless whitewash, hitting six doubles from ten attempts as he set up a second round tie with Stephen Bunting, who finished six doubles from ten attempts as he overcame Benito van de Pas 6-3.
William O'Connor came from 3-1 and 4-2 down to defeat James Wilson 6-5 in a deciding leg, with the Huddersfield ace missing tops for victory before the Irishman stepped in to take out 74.
Dave Chisnall also edged through in an 11-leg contest as he overcame Joe Murnan in a decider to set up a last 32 meeting with O'Connor.
World Grand Prix finalist Simon Whitlock held off Christian Kist's fightback, after the Dutchman came from two legs down to level, before he claimed a 6-3 win from their tie.
Whitlock now plays Jan Dekker, who defied a 170 checkout from Michael Smith to claim a 6-3 win, landing six doubles from ten attempts.
Kyle Anderson was also eliminated despite landing a 170 checkout as he went down 6-4 to Ron Meulenkamp, who now meets Justin Pipe after the two-time semi-finalist came from two legs down to defeat Mark Webster 6-3.
Former Lakeside Champions Steve Beaton and Jelle Klaasen will meet in round two following their impressive 6-4 wins over Ronny Huybrechts and Alan Norris respectively.
Welsh duo Gerwyn Price and Jonny Clayton will face off in round two after both eliminated Dutchmen with 6-4 victories, with Price seeing off Jimmy Hendriks and Clayton overcoming Jeffrey de Graaf.
Robert Thornton missed double 12 for a nine-dart finish in the deciding leg of his tie with James Richardson before surviving a missed match dart to edge through to face Chris Dobey.
Youngster Dobey finished six doubles from nine attempts as he defeated Kim Huybrechts 6-3, with Dutchman Jermaine Wattimena matching that finishing ratio in a ten-minute whitewash of Keegan Brown.
2016 semi-finalist Darren Webster sealed a 6-3 win over Spain's Toni Alcinas with a ten-dart leg as he moved through to meet Norfolk rival Mervyn King, who won in a deciding leg against Brendan Dolan.
The £460,000 tournament continues on Saturday, with the second round being played in the afternoon session and the third round in the evening session, before the last eight players progress to Sunday's decisive finals day.
The 64-player event will be live on ITV4 across the weekend - with the added bonus of Stage Two live streaming on Saturday through PDCTV-HD by selecting View Stream 2 and the OfficialPDC Facebook Page.
The main ITV4 coverage will be focused on the Main Stage action from the Skyline Pavilion in Minehead.
Mr Green Sport Players Championship Finals
Friday November 24
Darren Webster 6-2 Antonio Alcinas
Robert Thornton 6-5 James Richardson
Jamie Caven 6-5 Joe Cullen
Dave Chisnall 6-5 Joe Murnan
Stephen Bunting 6-3 Benito van de Pas
Chris Dobey 6-3 Kim Huybrechts
Adrian Lewis 6-3 Mike De Decker
James Wade 6-4 Kevin Painter
Steve Lennon 6-4 Zoran Lerchbacher
Justin Pipe 6-3 Mark Webster
Richard North 6-1 Peter Hudson
Mervyn King 6-5 Brendan Dolan
Steve Beaton 6-4 Ronny Huybrechts
Steve West 6-4 Ryan Searle
Jermaine Wattimena 6-0 Keegan Brown
Peter Jacques 6-5 Cristo Reyes
Ian White 6-5 Raymond van Barneveld
Mensur Suljovic 6-0 Andy Boulton
Rob Cross 6-2 Robert Owen
Daryl Gurney 6-0 Jeffrey de Zwaan
Mickey Mansell 6-3 Gary Anderson
Michael van Gerwen 6-2 Paul Nicholson
Steve Hine 6-5 Peter Wright
Simon Whitlock 6-3 Christian Kist
Gerwyn Price 6-4 Jimmy Hendriks
William O'Connor 6-5 James Wilson
John Henderson 6-2 Darren Johnson
Robbie Green 6-5 Vincent van der Voort
Jonny Clayton 6-3 Jeffrey de Graaf
Ron Meulenkamp 6-4 Kyle Anderson
Jan Dekker 6-3 Michael Smith
Jelle Klaasen 6-4 Alan Norris
Saturday November 25
Afternoon Session (12.45pm)
Dave Chisnall v William O'Connor
Mensur Suljovic v Stephen Bunting
Daryl Gurney v Robbie Green
Rob Cross v Steve Lennon
Mickey Mansell v Jermaine Wattimena
Michael van Gerwen v Steve West
Steve Hine v Peter Jacques
Darren Webster v Mervyn King
Chris Dobey v Robert Thornton
Jonny Clayton v Gerwyn Price
Richard North v Adrian Lewis
Ron Meulenkamp v Justin Pipe
Jelle Klaasen v Steve Beaton
Jamie Caven v James Wade
Jan Dekker v Simon Whitlock
Ian White v John Henderson
Evening Session (7pm)
Cross/Lennon v North/Lewis
Mansell/Wattimena v Norris/Klaasen/Beaton
Van Gerwen/West v D Webster/King
Wright/Hine/Jacques v Smith/Dekker/Whitlock
Chisnall/O'Connor v Meulenkamp/Pipe
Suljovic/Bunting v Clayton/Price
Caven/Wade v White/Henderson
Gurney/Green v Dobey/Thornton
NB: The main ITV4 broadcast being streamed through "View Stream 1" is subject to standard geo-blocking to the UK, Ireland and Netherlands, and is only available to PDCTV-HD Rest of the World Subscribers. Stage Two action is available for ALL PDCTV-HD Subscribers worldwide via "View Stream 2".
Facebook Live Stream - Friday Afternoon Session
Facebook Live Stream - Friday Evening Session Games 1-8
Facebook Live Stream - Alan Norris v Jelle Klaasen