"Let's Play Darts" is commonly heard at the introduction to a game of arrows between the big names in the sport that has made Phil "The Power" Taylor (something of) a household sporting name in Britain and a very rich man to boot. However, the format for the latest event in what is fast becoming a truly global sport (events are now annually held in the southern hemisphere and throughout Europe) is somewhat different to the standard 501 "checkout".
The World Grand Prix (of Darts), which started in Dublin on Monday evening this week, has thrown up a few unexpected results in the past since the inaugural event in 1998 and helped raise the profile of some players that many casual observers would have probably never seen play before. Brendan Dolan fed on home support when he was runner up in 2011 and famously achieved the darts' holy grail by becoming the first person to achieve a nine dart finish that year in the competition, but has had limited success elsewhere on the circuit. Indeed his best finish elsewhere in a PDC event was as a losing semi finalist in the European Championship event in 2012. Unsurprisingly, his conqueror in the 2011 final was none other than Taylor.
However, the sheer fact that the double has to be scored before a player can begin to reduce his remaining target below the 501 he starts with, can mean that it is several darts before he gets started in the leg and begins to look a tad clumsy if his opponent gets going immediately.
In this year's event the first two nights have seen the first round matches decided, which were over the best of three sets per match (first to three legs to win a set). Taylor is already through to play new talent Andrew Gilding in round two after beating Steve Beaton 2-0 with a convincing Monday night performance, which included a 121 twelve dart finish. Other star names through on day one included Scotland's Gary Anderson with an impressive three dart average just under 99 to beat Dolan and James "The Machine" Wade, who has won this title twice in the past so could be a major threat again this time. Former World Champion Adrian Lewis won through in a tight match that went all the way, defeating Daryl Gurney 2-1.
Last night's action saw some heavyweight clashes as five times former World Champion Raymond van Barneveld ("Barney" to his friends) had to stage a comeback from one set down to defeat Dave Chisnall, while the battle of the two Dutchmen Michael van Gerwen (current World PDC champion) and Vincent van der Voort resulted in a comfortable straight sets win for "Mighty Mike". The two are very close friends and van der Voort was even best man at van Gerwen's wedding this summer, so it was a slightly bittersweet victory, but he will now move on to face Dean Winstanley. #NewsTaylor's record at the event (as followers of the sport have come to expect) is very impressive, with this year seeing him attempt to win his 12th title after his victory twelve months ago. However, with former winners like Wade and van Gerwen (the 2012 winner) still in the competition, he will need all his "Power" to go the distance again.