PDC World Darts Championship: Our Six Players To Watch

6 players to look out for at the PDC World Darts Championship

Christmas isn’t Christmas without the darts and Darts Corner! The PDC World Darts Championship gets under way at London’s Alexandra Palace on Friday night (December 15). A star-studded field of 96 players from around the world will be competing for a slice of the £2.5 million prize fund over the next three weeks.

World number one Michael Smith returns as the defending champion having beaten Michael van Gerwen in last year’s final, which featured the ‘greatest leg ever’ when Smith threw a nine-dart finish after van Gerwen had missed double 12 for a perfect leg of his own.

Ahead of this year’s championship, Darts Corner has picked out six players to watch out for at Ally Pally. And don’t forget to shop our PDC World Championship collection for the signature darts and accessories of your favourite players competing in the tournament, including Michael Smith, Gary Anderson and Josh Rock!

Ross Smith

Ross Smith Darts

First match: v Niels Zonneveld or Darren Webster (in R2 on December 20) | PDC World Championship best performance: Last 32 (2022 and 2023) | Title odds: 66/1

He may not have hit the same heights since his European Championship victory in October 2022, but Ross Smith still remains a threat in every tournament he enters. ‘Smudger’ broke into the world’s top 16 for the first time in 2023 and for the season has a 96.18 three-dart average. Only five players are running at a higher seasonal average than Smith in the current campaign.

Smith’s last two visits to Ally Pally have ended in dramatic last set defeats against Dirk van Duijvenbode in the third round. The most recent of those losses 12 months ago saw Smith throw an incredible 19 180s – an individual record for a match over the best of seven sets.

His rate of maximum hitting means he is never out of a leg or a match and, as a former major winner, he knows how to get over the finish line. While Smith is yet to get past the last 32 of the PDC’s World Championship in six previous appearances, it only feels like a matter of time before ‘Smudger’ makes his mark on the biggest stage in darts.

Jim Williams

Jim Williams Darts

First match: v Norman Madhoo (in R1 on December 17) | PDC World Championship best performance: Last 32 (2023) | Title odds: 250/1

With the two-time world champion and fourth seed Peter Wright waiting in round two, Jim Williams might not be the first player you would think of to have a deep run at Ally Pally this year. Despite his struggles for consistency in 2023, Wright has still won three titles, including the European Championship, and Williams has gone without a title in his second year on the PDC tour.

However, the 39-year-old Welshman is a player not to be underestimated and is averaging 95.30 for the year, which is more than 1.5 points higher than Wright (93.71). A runner-up in the BDO World Championship and a former World Trophy champion, Williams made the switch over to the PDC with pedigree behind him and showed his potential with a Players Championship title last year.

‘The Quiff’ signed off the 2023 ProTour season with a semi-final and a final in the last two blocks of events so has some form behind him. Williams also has one big-name scalp at Ally Pally under his belt having knocked out James Wade in last year’s tournament. 

Richard Veenstra

Richard Veenstra Darts

First match: v Ben Robb (in R1 on December 20) | PDC World Championship best performance: Debut | Title odds: 500/1

Whilst Gian van Veen has grabbed plenty of attention from the new batch of PDC tour card holders this year, Richard Veenstra has quietly gone about his business in his debut season on the tour. Like Jim Williams, Veenstra arrived onto the professional circuit having enjoyed lots of success in the BDO and WDF systems.

‘Flyers’ reached the finals of both the Finder Darts Masters and World Trophy, and the semi-finals at Lakeside on two occasions, and picked up more than a dozen titles, including the Dutch Open in 2019. After winning his tour card at Q-School at the start of this year, the Dutchman instantly made an impression with a Players Championship quarter-final in the first ProTour weekend of the season.

The 42-year-old caught the eye just last month with a victory against the world number one Michael Smith in the Players Championship Finals. Smith’s below-par average of 85.35 attracted much of the headlines, but Veenstra himself posted an average of 97.36 – showcasing his own talents and as one to keep an eye on when he makes his Ally Pally debut next week.

Fallon Sherrock

Fallon Sherrock Darts

First match: v Jermaine Wattimena (in R1 on December 17) | PDC World Championship best performance: Last 32 (2020) | Title odds: 500/1

It has been a whirlwind four years for Fallon Sherrock since the events that transpired on December 17, 2019. A 3-2 victory against Ted Evetts on her Ally Pally debut saw Sherrock create history as the first female player to win a match at the PDC World Championship. She became an overnight sensation in the world of darts and was given the ‘Queen of the Palace’ nickname.

More milestones have followed since for the 29-year-old, reaching the final of the Nordic Darts Masters, the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam of Darts, throwing nine-dart legs on the PDC Challenge Tour and Modus Super Series, as well as receiving an MBE for her services to darts.

But there is one thing that has eluded Sherrock since her breakthrough run to the third round at Ally Pally in 2019 – another victory on that World Championship stage. Defeats to Steve Beaton and Ricky Evans has seen her exit at the first hurdle in each of the last two years. If you believe in omens, her opening round tie with Jermaine Wattimena in this year’s tournament will be played on December 17 – exactly four years to the day of that historic debut win.

Wessel Nijman

Wessel Nijman Darts

First match: v Steve Beaton (in R1 on December 19) | PDC World Championship best performance: Debut | Title odds: 300/1

It will be a classic example of experience vs youth when Steve Beaton and Wessel Nijman face off in the first round at Ally Pally. For the 59-year-old Beaton, a BDO world champion during the 1990s, it will be his 33rd consecutive World Championship campaign. On the other side, Nijman, 23, makes his debut and was not even born when Beaton lifted the Lakeside title in 1995!

Beaton’s record-extending 33rd World Championship appearance has assured him of a place on the PDC tour again for 2024, when he will be joined by Nijman. The young Dutchman has secured a two-year PDC tour card after finishing third on the final Development Tour Order of Merit. Nijman topped the seasonal averages on his return to the Development Tour this year, averaging 92.74 – more than half a point ahead of the world youth champion Luke Littler.

With only a handful of games on the European Tour under his belt, Nijman will be giving up plenty of big-stage experience to the evergreen Beaton. But if he can settle into the occasion then there is no question he will be more than a handful for the ‘Bronzed Adonis’ in their first-round encounter.

Stowe Buntz

Stowe Buntz Darts

First match: v Kevin Doets (in R1 on December 15) | PDC World Championship best performance: Debut | Title odds: 300/1

It’s fair to say few darts fans outside of North America knew much about Stowe Buntz before he made his big-stage bow at the Grand Slam of Darts last month. The colourful American had won the CDC Continental Cup back home to qualify for the Wolverhampton showpiece event for the first time.

A 5-1 demolition of Peter Wright in his opening group game, which saw him finish with an average over 102, saw everyone sit up and take notice. Buntz went on to reach the quarter-finals – a first for an American player at the Grand Slam. He will now be eyeing up another scalp when he makes his debut at Ally Pally on Friday night.

Buntz opens up the show against the Dutchman Kevin Doets, with the reward a clash in the second round later that evening against the defending champion Michael Smith. Since the increase from 72 to 96 players in 2019, the reigning world champion has not lost in the first match of their title defence. Could Buntz be the one to break that trend this year?

 

Check out our PDC World Championship collection which includes the signature darts and accessories of many of the top players competing at the Ally Pally this year!

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