The US Darts Masters kicks off on Thursday. Las Vegas is the glamorous setting of the best of the PDC going up against this year’s North American Championship qualifiers.
Intriguingly, the eight North American qualifiers are split perfectly down the middle, with four Canadians and four from the United States. Play starts with two of Canada’s stars. Gary Mawson has made it by the skin of his teeth, saved by the countback. He’s got a tough North American Championship draw, and a tough US Darts Masters one too. He plays Gerwyn Price, who will want a much better Las Vegas showing than last year’s meek exit at the hands of Dawson Murschell.
Joining the Canadian ranks is Shawn Brenneman, the runner-up in the last North American Championship qualifier. He plays Nathan Aspinall, who has earned a World Series berth off the back of excellent showings at the World Championship and UK Open. He might feel he’s hit the jackpot in getting a Vegas place.
Daryl Gurney and Michael Smith have a couple of real banana skins to avoid. Gurney plays Daniel Baggish, the talented Floridian whose stats suggest that he could well become a household name soon. Jim Long is heading in the right direction too; having represented Canada at the World Championship and World Cup of Darts, his next target is Vegas glory. Smith will have to be on his game.
Debut for Gates
US Darts aficionados have been wondering for a while why Leonard Gates hadn’t been able to make the US Darts Masters. The 48-year-old Texan has now, and he’s been handed a tie against world number two Rob Cross. Defending champion Gary Anderson then takes on Elliot Milk, who came out of left field and stormed his way to victory in the final qualifier.
There’s the added bonus that if Anderson defeats Milk, and Price sees off Brenneman, we’ll be treated to a repeat of that infamous 2018 Grand Slam final in the second round. And we all want that.
Jeff Smith, the reigning North American Championship champion, will kick off his title defence against Gary Mawson later in the day. Before that, he has Peter Wright to contend with. The final tie of the opening US Darts Masters session pits Michael van Gerwen against totemic southpaw Darin Young – who is no stranger to TV events.
Play starts at 12:00 local time, which is 20:00 BST.
Day One schedule
20:00 Gerwyn Price v Gary Mawson
20:30 Nathan Aspinall v Shawn Brenneman
21:00 Daryl Gurney v Daniel Baggish
21:30 Michael Smith v Jim Long
22:00 Rob Cross v Leonard Gates
22:30 Gary Anderson v Elliot Milk
23:00 Peter Wright v Jeff Smith
23:30 Michael van Gerwen v Darin Young
Author: Ed McCosh