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PDC - Darts: Top billing for Wright in Brighton

Premier League Darts returns after an action-packed UK Open saw the crowning of a new World No.1, and he's one of the eight players bound for Brighton.

Michael van Gerwen was the man on fire in Exeter last week but can the Dutchman become the first player to win a second night of Premier League Darts action since the new format was installed?

Wright reaches the summit

After Gerwyn Price’s 14 months as the world number one, his reign was brought to an end by Peter Wright over the weekend with the Iceman needing to reach the final of the UK Open to retain his position at the top of the PDC Order of Merit.

Price lost to Michael Smith in the quarter-final, meaning Wright became the 11th PDC number one.

The reigning world champion was beaten a round earlier by William O’Connor in Minehead and is the first ever Scot to be top of the pile.

To add to that, after his runner up spot to Michael van Gerwen last week, Peter Wright leads the Premier League table after the first four nights with ten points.

The 51-year-old is now 3/1 favourite to win the competition overall.

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Winners and losers in new Order of Merit

Perhaps one of the biggest stories of the changes in the Order of Merit over the weekend was Michael van Gerwen dropping to fifth in the rankings, his lowest position for a decade.

MvG was world number one for the longest consecutive streak in PDC history, from 1st January, 2014 to 3rd January, 2021 but now has four players in front of him.

The Green Machine looked back to his best in Exeter last week, dropping just three legs en route to winning the title but couldn’t follow up in the UK Open where he was beaten by Damon Heta.

Van Gerwen is 4/1 to follow up in Brighton and win week five, something no player has managed yet in this year’s competition.

James Wade was also a big winner in the new rankings, jumping to third, just one behind his highest ever placing.

The Machine hit a nine-darter in Minehead before he was knocked out by youngster Keane Barry in the quarter-finals.

Wade faces van Gerwen in the opening round in Brighton, with the Dutchman a 4/11 shot to get the better of the Machine, something he has done in nine of their last ten meetings. Wade is 11/5 a to end that poor run with a win in Brighton.

More major disappointment for Smith

Michael Smith's reputation as the 'nearly man' of darts was further enhanced on Sunday as he was edged 11-10 in the UK Open final by Danny Noppert.

Bully Boy had been in fine form at the tournament, coming from 6-2 down to win nine legs on the spin against Keane Barry in the semi-final.

He also set a new record for most 180s hit in UK Open history with 40, some 11 clear of his nearest rival.

Smith was a long odds-on shot to win his first major against Noppert and everything looked to be going swimmingly as he raced into a 3-0 lead. But familiar doubling issues resurfaced and Smith fell to an agonising defeat, his seventh in a major final.

Noppert registered the lowest ever average to win a PDC 501-start major final, 84.82.

Smith will be looking to bounce back from further disappointment after his loss in the World Championship final in January.

The St Helens chucker is 13/2 to come back with a bang and win week five of the Premier League and is 8/15 to open with a first round victory against Gary Anderson.

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