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Players Championship Finals preview: Smith hoping to double-up in Minehead

The final TV major before the World Championship gets underway on Friday morning with 64 players travelling to Butlins in Minehead for the Players Championship Finals, and Grand Slam winner Michael Smith will hope to make it two in two weeks.

'Bully Boy' finally realised his dream of winning a big TV title last week when he thrashed Nathan Aspinall 16-5 in the Wolverhampton final and now he will be feeling extra confident going into this weekend at Minehead where he is 8/1 to raise the trophy.

Defending champion Peter Wright will not be playing after he withdrew due to family reasons, while six-time winner Michael van Gerwen will hope to be in the mix for a fourth big TV title of the year.

The tournament is based on the results from the 30 Players Championships on this year's Pro Tour, and the fixed bracket draw has offered up some very interesting first-round ties.

What: Players Championship Finals

When: Friday 25th November-Sunday 27th November

Where: Butlins, Minehead

How to watch: ITV4

Odds: Michael van Gerwen 9/2, Gerwyn Price 11/2, Michael Smith 8/1, Jonny Clayton 12/1, Luke Humphries 14/1

Smith the man of the moment

Commonly regarded as one of the most natural throwers on the darting circuit, Michael Smith has had to be very patient throughout his career so far.

Previously, he had lost eight big TV finals, with three of them this year in the World Championship, UK Open, and European Championship.

His big scoring has never been in question but missing crucial doubles at the wrong moments has been his Achilles' heel - yet on Sunday he was utterly clinical.

Smith picked up the Eric Bristow Trophy and now faces Ritchie Edhouse in round one in a repeat of their Grand Slam group contest.

MvG hopes to add to excellent year

Even though he has probably not been at his absolute sparkling best, Michael van Gerwen has had a pretty stellar year by any measurement, winning the Premier League, World Matchplay, and Grand Prix titles.

The 33-year-old Dutchman has quietly gone about his business and still had a massively successful year, and he will be looking to reclaim his world crown at the start of January.

The perfect preparation therefore would be a win at Minehead and he has an exceptional record in this tournament, winning six times, with van Gerwen 9/2 to come out on top again. 

In round one, he faces improving left-hander Ryan Meikle and there is the tantalising prospect of a rematch with Wolverhampton nine-dart hero Josh Rock in round two.

The Ulsterman first has to negotiate the potentially tricky task of knocking out Scotsman Cameron Menzies.

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Welshmen hope to claim first big titles of the year

Despite being ranked world number one, Gerwyn Price (11/2) has not yet won a big TV title this year with his biggest success coming in the unranked World Series Of Darts Finals.

It is a big few months in prospect for the 37-year-old who will be defending his £500,000 winners cheque at Ally Pally and thus needs to start finding some good form.

He did win the penultimate Players Championship of the year in Barnsley, defeating young Dutchman Gian van Veen and he will face Ryan Joyce in round one.

Jonny Clayton has also had a quiet year in comparison to his awesome 2021, and the former plasterer will get his Minehead mission started against Cork debutant John O'Shea.

Who else could be in the mix?

In terms of TV winners, there has been a mixed bag this year with Joe Cullen, Danny Noppert, and Ross Smith all claiming their first big titles.

Three of the top four seeds have never won a televised title - number one Damon Heta has been fabulous on the floor and needs to transfer that form to the big stage. He faces young German Ricardo Pietreczko in round one.

Luke Humphries - now up to number five in the world - has displayed bags of potential this year with four European Tour titles and round one sees him meet Nathan Rafferty, who competed at the Grand Slam but didn't make it out of the group stages.

Nathan Aspinall has reached two big finals this year and is hoping to end his three-year major drought. He returns to the scene where he scooped his one and only major title in 2019 after he won the UK Open and faces fast Dutchman Martijn Kleermaker first up.

Another man who looks ripe for a major challenge is Dirk van Duijvenbode, with the Titan's best effort across major events a runners-up finish.

He commences his campaign against Mickey Mansell and he has the distinction of being the biggest 180 hitter across the entire tour.

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