Rod Harrington tells us why the favourites shoud be nervous at the World Grand Prix Darts in Dublin.
Last Updated: 03/10/11 8:34am
The great thing about the World Grand Prix is that not only do you have to double out, but you have to double in as well.
I used to hate starting on a double as a player but now I watch and study the game, it's great to see the players under that extra pressure.
Guys like Gary Anderson are phenomenal on the treble 20, but he'll openly admit that he's not so good on the doubles. That gives the underdogs more of a chance because you can steal a march on your opponent if he misses a few doubles at the start of a leg.
It's a real leveller and you see more favourites go out early in this tournament than in any other. You don't hear as much banter in the practice room at this tournament because everyone is so apprehensive.
Furthermore, the qualification process now allows more players on form to get through. Rather than a two-year slog, you can now qualify for the Grand Prix by playing well in tour events for a couple of months.
We're going to see a lot of players coming into form and that should give us a really good tournament. Often you'd pick out five or six favourites at the start of a darts event, but this week there's maybe 12 to 16 players who have a genuine chance of winning.
Here's my guide to some of the major players...
You can't look much beyond The Power. I've been watching him playing in the Championship League in Essex and he's been absolutely brilliant. There are players out there who can match his scoring, but because he's so good on doubles he doesn't normally have a problem getting in. I don't gamble, but if I was to put some money down it would have to go on Taylor.
The Scotsman is now confident in himself on his doubles. I watched him playing last Saturday and he was absolutely superb. As I mentioned before, he has tended to worry about his doubles in the past, but he's the Premier League champion and is much more assured these days.
RAYMOND VAN BARNEVELD
Barney has not played much competitive darts lately and I think that's going to go against him because you need match practice for the big events. He pulled out of the Championship League because he wants to prepare for the Grand Prix - but surely playing in a tournament is the best preparation? I find that hard to understand, but Raymond is a law unto himself at times. It will be interesting to see how he plays.
Colin is a former Grand Prix winner, a former Matchplay champion and a former world number one. He knows what it's all about, but he has been a little bit edgy over the last three or four years and has either gone out early or scraped through the early rounds of the big tournaments. He has moved from the left-hand-side back to the middle of the oche where he used to throw and he seems to be more comfortable in himself now. A relaxed Colin Lloyd will be very dangerous.
I think he's going to have a good tournament because he's the most improved player in the PDC in the last two years. He plays Colin Lloyd in the first round, who looks like he's coming back into form, and whoever wins that match could have a good run in the tournament. That's one of the toughest draws in the first round and you could flick a coin to decide who's going to win that.
I expect Paul Nicholson to do well. He's got bottle, he's got a bit of class about him and he takes his chances when he's presented with them. He plays Ronnie Baxter in round one and then potentially plays Taylor next and that would be quite a match. Paul has opened his mouth about Phil in the past and it's good for the game to have a bit of needle. We want characters - I used to dish it out a little bit myself - and that would be a mouth-watering clash in round two.
Andy Hamilton is so close to playing really well. His darts are all touching the treble-20 wire, but the problem is they're on the bottom of the treble-20 wire when he misses. If you miss above then it's not a big problem, but when they drop low it means he's losing a bit of pace. It's frustrating because he's not far away, but if he has a good start against the experienced Mark Webster then you never know, he could upset a few people.
He's a good player, a heavy scorer and the one thing that he has in his locker that makes him stand out from some of the others is that he doesn't care. He just goes up and plays darts to the best of his ability and doesn't get rattled by what the other bloke hits. This tournament may suit him because he'll look at the double-in rule and just get on with it. It's still 501, so once you get the double you've still get to score heavy and he could be really dangerous. When he has a bit more experience in the PDC, he'll be someone you don't want to draw.
The Aussie is playing really well and he's renowned for hitting his doubles. He plays Terry Jenkins first up and who would have thought that would be an opening-round match? Jenkins isn't playing as well as he was two or three years ago, but you can't write him off because he has bottle and experience. I'd have to pick Whitlock to win that match, but over a short format it will be scary for him.
Lewis won't be happy to have been drawn against John Part, who is playing some of the best darts of his life in the tour events and has something to prove. The Canadian has bundles of experience and doesn't miss his doubles very often. Aidy couldn't have had a tougher draw and if he's not on form then we could see the world champion go out in the first round. We all know about the talent he's got, but there's no question he has got the most dangerous first-round draw. Aidy's got to be on his game.
I'm not backing him to retain his title here because he's had a lot going on in his life over the last year. However, you never know what he might do if he gets everything right. Like Anderson or Lewis or Lloyd, when he rocks up, boy does he rock up and play some great darts! If he walks into the Grand Prix feeling great then you never know how far he might go.
I'd have to go for Taylor to win the tournament, not because of his scoring power but because of his ability on the doubles. He doesn't mess around too much getting in or getting out and that's what you need to do well here.