PDC stats analyst Christopher Kempf takes an in-depth look at how the BoyleSports World Grand Prix could impact the PDC Order of Merit...
The world's top three players - Gerwyn Price, Michael van Gerwen and Peter Wright - have been tightly grouped at the pinnacle of the rankings all through 2021, with acres of daylight between themselves and the rest.
But unless Michael van Gerwen can win the World Grand Prix and defend his 2019 title-winning ranking money, that gap could narrow considerably.
Just as the three-time World Champion enjoys the relief of having won a World Series title, his resurgence will be put to a serious test this weekend in Leicester.
11% of Van Gerwen's ranking total is at risk; a first round loss would see him fall to within £420,000 of his nearest rival, James Wade.
While this is still a considerable cushion, it is a far cry from the near £1.5 million in ranking money which separated the two just four years ago.
The positions of Wright and Price are much more secure; both players suffered disappointing performances in the double-start event in 2019 and so have nothing to lose.
It is fortunate for them that they do not, as both face top 16 ranked opponents in the vicious best-of-three set first round format - Price will encounter Michael Smith and Wright will face Rob Cross.
Rounding out a trio of blockbuster first round matches is the Gary Anderson-Ian White showdown, where the latter could fall out of the top 20 if he fails to match his 2019 quarter-final achievement.
Glen Durrant is in a similar position to White heading into a first round tie with Jose de Sousa - having reached the 2019 semi-finals to pick up £25,000 in prize money but now seeing his spot in the top 16 in jeopardy.
Dave Chisnall, the 2019 runner-up, is an interesting case. Here is a player who has slayed the demons of a near five-year losing streak to Van Gerwen on the World Championship stage, but in all likelihood the two players will never meet in Leicester.
Chisnall is far more likely to encounter World Champion Price - and even a win in a quarter-final between the two would not yet guarantee a successful defence of his 2019 runner-up income of £50,000 - 15% of his Order of Merit total.
Anything less than a run to the final will probably see him fall back in the rankings once again, behind Michael Smith and potentially Nathan Aspinall to world number ten.
The player who will see the biggest positive impact from a first-time qualification for the World Grand Prix is Martijn Kleermaker, who will see his Order of Merit total rise by nearly 10%, vaulting him ahead of six other players and into the top 50.
Meanwhile, Callan Rydz will enjoy a 6% boost from minimum World Grand Prix earnings, which will only change his position in the rankings to move above Steve Beaton.
The missed opportunity to defend earnings from 2019 will hit no one harder than 2019 semi-finalist Chris Dobey, who came within £2,500 on the ProTour Order of Merit of qualifying for this year's event ahead of Darius Labanauskas, the 16th-placed qualifier.
His breakthrough semi-final successes in 2019 at the World Grand Prix and Players Championship Finals have not been followed by similar achievements in the intervening years; consequently putting his place as a World Championship seed in jeopardy.
It will also be a second consecutive absence from the World Grand Prix for Adrian Lewis, increasing the probability that he will be an unseeded player at Alexandra Palace for the first time in his career.
The most noticeable overall impact of the 2021 World Grand Prix in ranking terms will hit the likes of Simon Whitlock and Steve Beaton, who have participated in most editions of the World Grand Prix since its 1998 inception, while Dutch duo Jermaine Wattimena (a quarter-finalist in 2019) and Jeffrey de Zwaan (who reached round two) also will be unable to defend that prize money.
The turnover in World Grand Prix qualifications is increasing - a total of 11 players present in 2019 will not return, giving ranking 'honeymoons' to 11 mostly young, continental players with Tour Card wins at Qualifying School in recent years.
Last year's World Grand Prix was the inception of Dirk van Duijvenbode's rise to prominence - it may now be the turn of Gabriel Clemens or Damon Heta to ride the unusual format of the event and make a run to the final.
Follow Christopher Kempf on Twitter @ochepedia.