Exactly one month since the 2018 PDC season ended, the Masters kicks off the 2019 campaign.
Although it’s a non-ranking event, the Masters still has a role to play. The PDC’s top players have an early chance to set out their stall for the upcoming season. And there’s the small matter of a £70,000 top prize to play for.
The Masters tends to be dominated by Michael van Gerwen. That was true of the Players Championship Finals, until Daryl Gurney came along. The now two-time major winner could score another impressive stage win in Milton Keynes. He meets Dave Chisnall, who could do with a strong season after a topsy-turvy 2018.
Mensur Suljovic takes on Simon Whitlock in the second tie of the evening. It looks tough to call on paper; both have plenty to prove after disappointing World Championship performances. The Gentle is about to start his second Premier League campaign. Whitlock, who was snubbed, would surely love to thumb his nose at the selectors with a good run here.
Gary Anderson was set to play Darren Webster in the first round. But the Flying Scotsman’s early season hopes have hit the rocks. With the world number four out injured, Stephen Bunting steps in. It’s a boost for Webster, who makes his debut on Friday evening. But the Bullet will feel just as confident that a morale-boosting quarter-final spot is up for grabs.
On January 1, 2019, Michael van Gerwen became a three-time world champion. A month on, the Dutchman’s bid for further glory starts here. He’s the undisputed master of the Masters, having won it four times on the bounce. Jonny Clayton stunned Mighty Mike in the Grand Slam group stage, almost repeating the trick in the quarter-finals. Given that only the world’s top 16 populate the Masters (17 this time around), anyone can beat anyone. Yet van Gerwen’s history tells a story of its own. The reigning world champion will be the clear favourite – a tag he’s more than used to.
Click here to visit the Masters tournament centre.
19:10 Daryl Gurney v Dave Chisnall
20:10 Mensur Suljovic v Simon Whitlock
21:10 Stephen Bunting v Darren Webster
22:10 Michael van Gerwen v Jonny Clayton
Author: Ed McCosh