1. Phil Taylor will drop out of the World’s Top 2
This would be unprecedented in PDC folk law! Since the current ranking system was implemented, Taylor has never been ranked lower than 2nd. However, I cannot envisage Taylor retaining his number two spot, with Gary Anderson trailing him by just a meagre £12,000. Now I am certainly not forecasting a Taylor decline; he is still performing at the peak of his powers, illustrated by his 116 average against Raymond van Barneveld, albeit in defeat, last week.
Yet unfortunately for Taylor, there are so many top players performing to their maximum, and with the Power having to defend the World Matchplay and World Grand Prix titles, along with a Players Championship final appearance on the rolling two-year order of merit, he will have to enjoy a dominant year to stave off the threat of a resurgent Anderson, who is defending very little after having a particularly ordinary 2013. I think Taylor will win at least one major title this year, although it’s unlikely to be sufficient to preserve his current ranking.
2. We will see a 120+ average on Television
I am adamant that this is the year we will see a 120+ average on TV. The current record, held by Taylor, is 118.66, but these averages are regularly being rivalled and sometimes bettered on the floor tournaments. Adrian Lewis averaged 121 in a 6-0 rout of Ryan Harrington in one of this year’s UK Open qualifiers, and Michael van Gerwen also exceeded the 120+ mark in beating Steve Beaton in the Championship League of Darts a few years back. The likes of Taylor, van Gerwen, Anderson, Lewis, van Barneveld, Huybrechts and Chisnall are all prolific scorers, and over a shorter format like the best of 11/15 legs, I believe we will see Taylor’s record TV average surpassed in this calendar year.
3. Simon Whitlock will fall out of the World’s Top 10
Simon Whitlock endured a miserable 2014. Since the World Matchplay last July, Whitlock has been eliminated in the first round of the last EIGHT major television events. He’s fortunate to still retain a top 10 spot, but that’s purely down to the two-year rolling order of merit. The Australian still has the ability, but his confidence looks extremely brittle. He was renowned for being a clinical finisher, particularly on the high combination outshouts, yet now he looks vulnerable with three darts at a double.
Whitlock continues to tinker with his set-up, which just illustrates that he’s lacking in confidence and desperate for solutions. 2015 is a critical year for the Wizard; from 2013, he’s defending a total of £147,500 in ranking prize money, comprised from a European Championship final appearance, and a run to the semi-finals of the 2014 World Championships. Given his current predicament, I would be surprised to see Whitlock still in the top 10 at the turn of 2016.
4. This could be John Part’s last year on the Professional Circuit.
This is a prediction that I hope is emphatically incorrect. John Part is in my top ten players of all time; having won three world titles across both codes, beating Phil Taylor in one of those finals 7-6. Part was renowned as the ultimate match-player, with the ability to grind out victories due to his prolific finishing, although the consistency within his game has completely evaporated. Part admitted that he would consider his future on the PDC Pro Tour depending on his 2015 form, and he has struggled on floor and on stage; losing in the first round of the UK Open to Mike Zuydwijk, posting an 84 average in the process. Part is an undoubted legend of the game, and in my opinion, the most insightful and articulate darts commentator on Sky Sports. However, having plummeted down to 38th in the order of merit, his days as a PDC professional may sadly be numbered.
5. There will be a new major winner this year
The statistics may suggest otherwise, but I believe we will see a new major winner this year. The last 15 major televised ranking titles have been shared between the quartet of Phil Taylor, Adrian Lewis, Michael van Gerwen and Gary Anderson, whilst Raymond van Barneveld and James Wade have won non-ranking majors over the last few years. However, as I mentioned in a previous blog post, there are many potential new major winners in the pipeline.
You have the experience of Peter Wright, Mervyn King and Terry Jenkins, all of whom regularly feature in the latter stages of tournaments, while you also have the exciting talents of Dave Chisnall, Michael Smith, Kim Huybrechts and Stephen Bunting, who certainly have the game to win majors. It won’t be easy, but I think this could be the year that the big 6’s major monopoly is broken.
6. Dutch Darts will continue to explode
Dutch Darts has never been stronger. Michael van Gerwen continues to shine, having made a dominant start to 2015, whilst Raymond van Barneveld remains a genuine threat for all the major titles. In addition, both Vincent van der Voort and Jelle Klaasen have enjoyed somewhat of a renaissance over the last 12 months; van der Voort has moved up to 20th in the OOM, whilst Klaasen has surged into the top 32 and is now ranked 25, thanks to some excellent performances on the European Tour. By the end of 2015, there could be four Dutchman within the top 16, which would be unprecedented.
There is also a conveyor belt of extremely talented Dutchman coming through. Benito van de Pas is on the verge of breaking into the top 32, having taken some big scalps over the last 12 months, whilst Mike Zuydwijk and Jeffrey De Zwaan, both of whom are sponsored by van Barneveld, have enjoyed very promising starts to 2015. Zuydwijk beat John Part in the UK Open, whilst De Zwaan has already defeated Taylor and Bunting in the UK Open qualifiers, whilst he also hit a nine-darter in the opening weekend of Players Championship events. It’s fantastic to see the achievements of van Gerwen and van Barneveld inspiring a new generation of Dutch darters. To coin a phrase; the future’s bright, the future’s orange!
7. Wilson to be the most successful BDO Boy
In the wake of the 2015 Lakeside World Championships, 4 BDO players; James Wilson, Robbie Green, Alan Norris and Jan Dekker all joined the PDC and entered Q-School. Dekker was the only one of the quartet not to secure a tour card, yet ironically went furthest in the UK Open, reaching the last 16 stage where he was beaten 9-7 by Mensur Suljovic. Robbie Green has struggled since switching, but some of his underwhelming performances have been caused by injury. Norris and Wilson have enjoyed the most success; Norris hit two nine-darters across Q-School and has recorded some eye-catching averages, whilst Wilson has beaten the likes of Ian White, Dolan, Chisnall and Anderson on tour. However, I think Wilson is best equipped out of the former BDO men to succeed in the PDC. Norris has undeniable quality and will pick up some big scalps, but consistency is the issue. Wilson is extremely solid and has the pedigree, having won several majors in the BDO. As @WilliamEdGray aptly put it, Wilson’s action is a work of art, worthy of a Turner Prize. I think there’s an outside chance of Wilson breaking into the top 32 by the end of 2015.
8. Record Number of Televised Nine-Darters
Last year we saw a record number of televised 9 darters; 6 in total, hit by Phil Taylor, James Wade, Robert Thornton, Michael van Gerwen, Kim Huybrechts and Adrian Lewis respectively. However, I believe this record will be broken in 2015. The solitary nine-darter of 2015 so far, came in the BDO Dutch Open, with Daryl Fitton hitting the 9 in his final against Martin Adams. They are being hit with unnerving regularity on the floor. In last weekend’s Players Championship events, 3 were hit within 2 days, by Nathan Derry, Jeffrey De Zwaan and Cristo Reyes.
Additionally, D12 has been missed for a nine-darter on four separate occasions in this year’s Premier League. Huybrechts, Raymond van Barneveld, Gary Anderson and Michael van Gerwen have all come agonisingly close to the perfect leg. The top players are hitting maximums with such frequency and are so adept at taking out big finishes under pressure, that I would be surprised if last year’s record of 6 nine darters is not usurped in this calendar year.
9. Josh Payne to Star on the Youth Tour
The PDC Youth Tour gets underway on April 25th this year, and the age limit of players allowed to compete has risen to 23. There is an abundance of raw talent on the youth tour, but I think Josh Payne could enjoy a breakthrough year in 2015. Payne finished 2nd on the Youth OOM last year and it wouldn’t surprise me if he went one better in 2015. He had an excellent run to the last 32 of the Coral UK Open, where he was beaten by Mensur Suljovic, but he acquitted himself extremely well. In the floor tournaments, he’s taken some big scalps, such as Phil Taylor, Dave Chisnall, Kevin Painter, Justin Pipe and Mark Webster, whilst he has also recorded two 100+ averages on the tour in 2015. Michael van Gerwen, Michael Smith and Keegan Brown have all benefited hugely from the experience gained from the youth tour; it could have a similar impact for Payne.
10. Holland to Win the World Cup of Darts
I fancy Michael van Gerwen and Raymond van Barneveld to retain the World Cup of Darts for the Netherlands in June. Holland beat England comprehensively in last year’s final, and will be confident of replicating the feat. Van Gerwen was carried by Barney for large periods in last year’s competition; the legendary Dutchman had to beat Ronny Huybrechts and Micky Mansell to keep his nation in the tournament. However, I can’t see MvG struggling this year as he is in superb form, whilst van Barneveld also performs excellently when representing his country.
England of course have a fantastic chance, with Taylor and Lewis having won the title twice before, while the general conjecture amongst many I talk to on social media believe that Scotland also have a brilliant chance, and I can see why. The combination of Anderson’s power scoring and Wright’s clinical finishing could be a lethal partnership, but I cannot look past the Netherlands.
Do you agree with my 10 Darting Predictions for 2015? Please let me know by leaving your thoughts below. Alternatively, if you have any predictions you would like to share, I’d love to hear them! Thanks for reading.