The PDC European Darts Trophy returns this week.
It’s pretty significant for most of its 48-strong field, too. There are still spaces up for grabs at the next PDC TV event, the European Championships. The European Darts Trophy is the last direct route to Dortmund. Göttingen hosts the event this year; it has had more hosts (four) than winners (three). Here’s a quick recap of the European Darts Trophy from its inception in 2013.
The first year was Wes Newton’s year, as the Lancashire ace picked up the biggest win of his PDC career. Newton’s only European Tour title (so far – you never know) was sealed in a gripping final in Sindelfingen. Finishes of 100, 116 and 104 had helped him into a lead against Paul Nicholson, but the Asset bounced back and earned himself a pair of match darts. Both were missed, Newton pounced, and the Warrior had battled his way to glory. Wins over Thomas Seyler, Arron Monk, Peter Wright, Justin Pipe and Mensur Suljovic set him on his way to the final before the win over Nicholson. It set him up nicely for a pivotal match the next Thursday in the Premier League; unfortunately, Newton lost to Andy Hamilton on Judgement Night in Brighton, and was relegated.
Now a regular fixture on the European Tour, this marked Suljovic’s best result on the PDC circuit. Also scaling new heights was 23-year-old Michael van Gerwen. The semi-finalist, beaten by Nicholson, earned enough to make it to second in the PDC Order of Merit at the close of play. Whatever happened to him?
Another year, another maiden European Tour win. This time it was Michael Smith who took the plaudits in the new location of Leipzig. Bully Boy began his tournament with an imperious 6-2 win over Jyhan Artut, featuring a 104.50 average. Rowby-John Rodriguez, Justin Pipe and Andy Hamilton were similarly unable to hold Smith back.
He met Michael van Gerwen in the final. 2013’s vanquished semi-finalist went a step further this time around, beating surprise semi-finalist Dean Winstanley to take himself to within one win of glory. In fact, one leg was the margin between success and failure in the end. The final went to a decider, but Smith came out on top to secure a milestone victory.
The 2015 European Darts Trophy featured a statistical anomaly. Michael van Gerwen managed to record the same average, 92.97, in consecutive games. Both were 6-0 wins too, over Jason Lovett and Dave Chisnall. They were bookmarked by ton-plus averages in wins over Adam Hunt and Peter Wright. And yet history repeated itself for Mighty Mike, but not in a way he’d have liked.
Once again, Michael Smith came out on top. It may have been Mülheim hosting, not Leipzig, but Bully Boy brought the same game and took the same prize as in 2014. This time, a 6-2 win in the final was enough to take the £25,000 prize.
It was third time lucky for Michael van Gerwen in 2016. Following two defeats in two consecutive finals, the Dutchman finally claimed the trophy. He did it in some style too, overcoming Mensur Suljovic in an excellent clash. The Gentle was on a high, having won the International Darts Open the week before.
And it looked like Suljovic, who had earlier seen off the second and third seeds in Peter Wright and James Wade respectively, was going to claim the scalp of the pre-tournament favourite. Two breaks of throw earned the Austrian a 4-2 lead, but van Gerwen bounced back with back-to-back 13-dart legs. Suljovic made it 5-4 – and van Gerwen went into overdrive. A 12-darter, then an 11-darter, rounded off a 106.77 average and another trophy.
Following on from Michael Smith’s example, Michael van Gerwen claimed a second title on the bounce last year. Averages of 100, 103 and 110 against Stephen Bunting, Joe Cullen and Simon Whitlock saw him through to the final with fewer legs dropped than in his 6-3 second round win over Zoran Lerchbacher.
There were a handful of surprises in Göttingen; Andy Boulton beat Daryl Gurney, and Kim Huybrechts downed Peter Wright despite Snakebite averaging 110.59. Mr Surprise Package himself was therefore a worthy finalist. Rob Cross, still months away from his breakthrough World Championship performance, made it to the second of three European Tour finals he’d reach in 2017. In the one before, he lost to Michael van Gerwen. In the one after, he lost to Michael van Gerwen. So, in this one…you know the rest. A 6-4 win was enough to give the world number one the crown once again.
Author: Ed McCosh