Peter Wright has targeted a first Premier League title in 2022 and made the perfect start by taking maximum points on Night One – the question is, can anyone stop the world champ?
Wright's Premier League 2022 odds were cut to 3/1 after he opened the new-look tournament in style in Cardiff, beating Michael Smith, Gary Anderson and then Jonny Clayton to go top of the table.
Next up, Snakebite and his seven rivals are off to Liverpool for Night Two and that means a showdown with the five-time Premier League winner Michael van Gerwen.
Ordinarily, whenever these two have met – and they've met a lot – it would be Van Gerwen going off the favourite.
In Liverpool, however, it's Wright who is a 8/13 chance in their best-of-11 legs quarter-final, which opens up proceedings – and he's a hard man to oppose at the moment.
The winner of that tie will play the winner of Jonny Clayton versus Michael Smith in the semi. In the other half of the draw, James Wade plays Joe Cullen and Gary Anderson goes up against Gerwyn Price. In the revamped format, it's five points to the night's winner, three to the runner-up and two each for the losing semi-finalists.
Wright is in impossibly good form at the moment. Since losing to Gabriel Clemens in a Grand Slam group stage match back in November, he has played 35 matches, winning 32 of them.
During that run he has won three titles, the Players Championship Finals, the World Darts Championship and a Pro Tour floor event at the weekend.
Van Gerwen, in contrast, is struggling by his own sky-high standards. He won one game at The Masters, was beaten by Gary Anderson in Cardiff last Thursday and over the weekend in Barnsley he suffered a pair of round-of-32 exits, at the hands of Daryl Gurney and Stephen Burton. The Dutch ace is 13/10 to down Wright in Liverpoool.
Van Gerwen actually boasts a seriously impressive Premier League record in Liverpool – played eight, won six, including a whitewash of Phil Taylor – and Wade is another who likes to take the stage at the Merseyside venue.
The left-hander has played nine times there and lost only once – in 2013 – so should feel positive about taking on debutant Cullen in front of a packed house.
The unassuming Wade is an easy – but dangerous – man to write off. He's still the tournament outsider at 18/1 despite getting two points on the board by beating Price in Cardiff and he's rated 11/10 against Cullen, who wouldn't be the first debutant to find the going tough in this event.
Price is 4/9 to beat Anderson, something he does regularly enough these days. He's won seven of their last ten showdowns, a run kick-started by that famous and explosive success in the final of the Grand Slam in 2018.
The final quarter-final between Clayton and Smith is a more competitive betting affair with the Welshman and reigning champ 4/6 and Bully Boy a 6/5 chance.
It is, of course, a repeat of their unforgettable World Championship fourth-round tie which Smith edged 4-3, a match in which Clayton averaged over 102 and lost.
He was, if not officially, the player of 2021, with a string of big titles and he's taken that form into 2022, looking good in Cardiff last week until he ran out of steam against Wright in the final.
Smith, who has won eight of his last 11 showdowns with Clayton, looks in need of a spark.
More remarkable than losing 6-3 to Wright last Thursday was surely the fact that this most majestic of 180 hitters didn't hit a single max in nine legs. Despite that, he's 4/5 to land more 180s than Clayton.
However, he didn't have a particularly good weekend in Barnsley, either – he suffered third and first round exits over the two days – though he was back in the treble-20 bed with 12 maxes in the 35 legs he played.