After a long wait, the US Darts Masters is back. Covid restrictions saw the World Series put firmly on hold, with 2020 and 2021 playing host only to the World Series Finals and one edition of the Nordic Darts Masters. This year, however, things are back in full flow, and in many ways it feels as if we are being treated to an entirely new event. A long time has passed since the last World Series tournament outside of Europe (2 years and 10 months to be precise) and therefore it feels hard to know what to expect from this event. The change in location – from Las Vegas to New York City – has also given it a new and different feel. So what can we look forward to across the Atlantic this weekend?
First and foremost, there will hopefully be an excellent exhibition of North American talent on display. The Canadian and American competitors are truly the cream of the crop from the continent, a field which includes recently crowned World Seniors Masters champion David Cameron and four PDC Tour Card holders. The chances for upsets are certainly there; Peter Wright will not feel too at ease about the prospect of facing rising star Danny Baggish and Jonny Clayton vs. Danny Lauby Jr is an enticing prospect. It would be fantastic to see one or more of these excellent North American throwers do real damage in the draw and put on a fantastic demonstration of stateside darts.
There is added interest in this event also for its inclusion of Fallon Sherrock. Sherrock was originally invited to the event in the wake of her 2020 PDC World Championship successes, however Covid delays have meant that only now is that coming to fruition. At last year’s Nordic Masters, she had an excellent run to the final, and if her successes on the Women’s Series are anything to go off, the ‘Queen of the Palace’ certainly has an excellent opportunity in the Big Apple.
Michael van Gerwen won the inaugural US Darts Masters back in 2017, but a lot has changed since then. The upper echelons of the game have tightened significantly, and he no longer wins events with apparent ease as he did 5 years ago. Nonetheless, he will fancy himself for this New York crown arguably more so than for any ‘televised’ event of the last year or so given his phenomenal form. Additionally, he has won more World Series events than anyone else. Despite this, MvG will not be counting his chickens before they have hatched, with lots of darts yet to be thrown. Jules van Dongen is his first challenger, before a potential match-up with the tricky James Wade in the quarters.
The top seed for this event is of course world number 1 Peter Wright, a man who has had a mixed start to his second spell as world champion. His match-up with Danny Baggish could be one to provide a headache and it will be fascinating to see if a player very well equipped for the big stage can shorten Wright’s stay at the MSG. Fellow Scotsman Gary Anderson also faces a very difficult opponent in Matt Campbell, a man fresh from a Players Championship final in Barnsley back in April. Gerwyn Price will also be wary of another recent tournament winner in the aforementioned David Cameron. Will ‘Excalibur’ be looking to wield his sword on another World Champion after his felling of Phil Taylor? What is certain is that across the North American field there is plenty of potential for upsets.
To assist me with my look-ahead to this fascinating weekend of darts, friend of the blog and excellent voice in darts Derrick of High Roller Radio has offered his insights on the weekend ahead of us. Enjoy!
DW: What are you most looking forward to about the event?
HRR: With any televised darts tournament, I mostly anticipate the pressure and the atmosphere. How will the North Americans handle the pressure playing in front of the home crowd against the world’s best? What atmosphere will the crowd generate? Madison Square Garden is one of the world’s iconic sporting venues, and it’s hosting darts? This is an amazing opportunity to spread the word about darts, what a thrilling and fantastic game it can be, the fact big money opportunities exist, and that if you’re good enough, you can make a career of it. I’m sure there will be one or two youngsters in the crowd who will walk away from this weekend with that sparkle in their eye, like they’ve had a light bulb moment, and they will think to themselves, “This is what I want to do, I love this game.” It will also be interesting to see how the PDC and its broadcasting partners plan to incorporate New York City into the coverage. I’m sure it’ll be over-the-top, and perhaps it should be – New York after all is the city that never sleeps.
Of the North Americans in the draw, who are you tipping to do best? Will any of them upset the big players?
Danny Baggish is a big underdog against the world champ Peter Wright, but why not a little wager on ‘The Gambler’? Snakebite hasn’t been at his very best of late, and Danny Baggish is coming off a recent win on the Championship Darts Circuit, so perhaps he’s got a chance. Plus, Baggish likes the spotlight, and is known for big time stage performances. What a story he could write at MSG. Jeff Smith is one of my personal favourites, and I’ll be backing him as well against the very tough James Wade. It won’t be easy, but for once, Smith doesn’t have to worry about jet lag, his opponent does. Also, I’m picking Leonard Gates to beat Fallon Sherrock. While he needs work on his counting, his throw is natural and fluid, and he’s been playing with tons of confidence of late.
And finally, who do you think will win the event?
If a North American doesn’t win it, I guess I’ll have to go with MvG. Make no mistake about it, everybody wants to win the first ever tourney at Madison Square Garden. I think Mighty Mike will be ready to raise his game. A legendary player at legendary venue.
The action will be live on PDC TV, with delayed coverage on ITV 4 also available. Best of luck to those competing and let’s hope New York City puts on a great show!