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PDC - Darts: Players Championship heading to Germany

Players Championship 7 and 8 take place this weekend and for the first time in 2022 the great and the good of the PDC ranks are heading to continental Europe.

The first six Players Championship events were staged in either Wigan or Barnsley, but 7 and 8 are at the H+ Hotel in Niedernhausen in Germany, which has become a regular stop for the PDC these days.

Players Championship events are the bread and butter of the PDC's Pro Tour, with events open to all card holders.

There are 30 of them over the course of 2022 with money earned in these competitions counting towards the PDC's overall Order of Merit.

Also, the top 64 ranked players from these 30 stand-alone events will qualify for the lucrative season-ending Players Championship Finals in Minehead.

These one-day shootouts are a chance for the players who don't often get to star in the big ranking tournaments to earn some decent money, make a name for themselves and rise up the rankings.

And because these events are not played on the big stage, under the TV lights with all the pressure that goes with it, but on a series of boards in front of just a handful of observers, it's a far more level playing field.

Two bites at the cherry

The pros who turn up in Niedernhausen also get two bites at glory, as is nearly always the way with these Pro Tour events, with one competition staged on the Saturday, the second on the Sunday, different events with different draws, but each offering £12,000 to the winner as part of a daily prize fund of £100,000.

And as we've seen already this season, disappointment on day one isn't necessarily repeated on day two.

Last weekend Jim Williams reached the last 32 in Players Championship 5 on the Saturday - 24 hours later he was £12,000 richer after winning Players Championship 6, an effort which saw him soar up to fifth place in the Players Championship Order of Merit.

The Welshman's success also confirmed the sense that the big boys, the TV stars, the Premier League elite, don't have it all their own way on the floor.

Yes, Joe Cullen has won two of the six events played so far and Peter Wright claimed one of the others. But the three other winners have been Luke Humphries, the world No.19, Damon Heta, who is 21 in the world, and now Williams, who is down at 77.

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Niedernhausen form boys

H+ Hotel in Niedernhausen staged four Players Championship events in 2021 on four successive days in April, producing four different winners - four men who are proven performers on the floor.

The first winner was Jose de Sousa, priced at 33/1 to win the PDC World Championship 2023, who produced an incredible 114-plus average in battering Luke Humphries 8-1 in the final. A day later it was Michael Smith who went in, beating namesake Ross Smith in a much closer affair.

Rising star Dirk van Duijvenbode was next in on day three, pipping fellow Dutchman Martijn Kleermaker 8-6. And Van Duijvenbode almost celebrated a memorable double only to be pipped by Belgium's Dimitri van den Bergh 8-7 in a thrilling final showdown on day four.

Brothers in arms

This weekend there have been a host of withdrawals with the PDC having to shuffle down the European rankings to bring in reserves and that has ensured a couple of notable events will pass in Niedernhausen.

The first is the presence of another pair of brothers courtesy of Carlo van Peer's late summons. Sibling Berry van Peer was already in the field.

The Van Peers become the fourth set of brothers to play alongside each other in a PDC Pro Tour event.

Also making a small piece of darting history will be Thibault Tricole, elevated from the European Challenge Tour for the weekend, who becomes the first player from France to ever grace a Players Championship contest.

Can any of them win? Almost certainly not - but as we've seen in the Players Championship, it's dangerous to rule anyone out, especially this weekend with a number of top pros absent.

Players to watch out for

Flying the flag for Germany will be, among many others, Martin Schindler, who enjoyed a magnificent run to the semis of Players Championship 6 in Barnsley last Sunday.

Victories over the likes of Luke Humphries and Callan Rydz helped Schindler to the last four where he fell short against eventual winner Williams, but it showed the steps the German is taking and he's exactly the type who could go close again.

Fellow German Gabriel Clemens also threw well in Barnsley as did van den Bergh who, as we've seen, is a winner at the H+ Hotel before. Dancing Dimitri, who is 16/1 to win the PDC World Championship 2023, was also outstanding at the German Darts Championship earlier this month, beating Ryan Searle and Michael Smith before averaging almost 101 in a 7-6 defeat to Michael van Gerwen.

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