Ryan Searle and Danny Noppert took the spoils at last weekend's opening two Players Championship events of 2023 at Barnsley's Metrodome.
Searle and Noppert are part of the 128-man field heading back to South Yorkshire this weekend for the next two events in the 30-tournament, season-long series.
|What||Players Championship 3 & 4|
|When||Saturday 18th February - Sunday 19th February|
|Odds||G Price 7/1, J Clayton 10/1, L Humphries 10/1, N Aspinall 12/1, D van den Bergh 12/1|
The 2023 darts season is well and truly up and running following the start of the 30-event Players Championship calendar in Barnsley last weekend.
Ryan Searle and Danny Noppert pocketed £12,000 winner's cheques for their respective triumphs, Searle beating Jamie Hughes 8-4 in the final on Saturday, Noppert overcoming Whitlock 8-3 in the second final 24 hours later.
It means Noppert, who also reached the last 16 on Saturday, is top of the fledgling Players Championship Order of Merit – the top 64 on this list at the end of the year qualify for the Players Championship Finals in Minehead in November – though much can, and probably will, change this weekend.
With the Premier League now in full swing at the same time as the bread-and-butter Pro Tour kicks into gear, plenty of the top players are going to be juggling their schedules.
Gerwyn Price is a 7/1 shot on Saturday having sat out last week's opening Players Championship double-header and a trio of his Premier League rivals are going to take a break this weekend.
Michael Smith, triumphant on Premier League Night 3 in Glasgow on Thursday, had already declared he was a non-runner in Barnsley, as had Peter Wright, the only member of the Premier League octet without a point after three rounds of that competition.
And on Thursday Michael van Gerwen revealed he too would give Barnsley a miss this weekend. James 'Hillbilly' Hurrell takes the Green Machine's place with a 500/1 quote for Saturday.
International aces Corey Cadby, Christian Perez and Vladimir Andersen are also absentees.
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Luke Humphries is the No.1 seed this weekend and is going to be a massive threat. Clearly there are any number of potential winners for these floor events but 10/1 poke Humphries has to be massively respected.
Last year's Grand Slam and Players Championship semi-finalist and a six-time winner on the floor, he already looks like he means business.
He played 10 games in Barnsley last weekend, averaging 98.9 in reaching the last 16 and last four respectively.
In only one of those games did he average less than 93, in four he averaged over 100, including a spellbinding 119.15 against Luke Woodhouse, in which he hit six of nine attempts at double and pinned a 150 checkout to round off the 6-1 win.
And on his 28th birthday. Humphries, the world No.5, is rightly irked at having missed out on a place in the Premier League and hell hath no fury like a darts player scorned.
Searle, Noppert and Humphries are obviously in decent form but so too are many others. Joe Cullen produced the single highest-match average on the Sunday, with a 106.24 in a 6-2 win over Ritchie Edhouse.
He, like Humphries, has a few points to prove after a Premier League snub. In terms of consistency no one did as well as Jonny Clayton, who didn't drop below 93.8 in eight matches, reaching the quarter-finals on Saturday.
Richard Veenstra made a good impression on his Pro Tour debut with six wins across both days, James Wade, Brendan Dolan and Raymond van Barneveld all earned good points with flashes of vintage class, while Callan Rydz was the only man to reach the last eight on successive days.
The Riot produced a 111.06 average during a 6-1 win over Ian White en route to the quarters on Saturday and boasted another pair of ton-plus averages repeating the feat 24 hours later. He gets a 50/1 quote for PC3.
Robert Owen didn't win any headlines in Barnsley last weekend, the Welshman falling at the first hurdle on both days. That means no cash in the pocket and immediately playing catch-up going back to the Metrodome.
Yet to be honest, Owen has to consider himself a tad unfortunate. On Saturday an average of 100.62 wasn't enough against Dimitri van den Bergh as he lost 6-3 and on Sunday he bettered his numbers again, averaging 101.44 against Nick Kenny and that wasn't good enough, either.
Kenny produced a 12-darter in the decider to win 6-5. Maybe it will be better luck this time for the 300/1 chance.