Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld are among the wildcard selections for the 2017 Premier League, whilst Jelle Klaasen and Kim Huybrechts will make their returns to the competition when the action gets underway at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena on February 2nd.
The line-up for the 2017 Premier League was announced by PDC Chairman Barry Hearn in the immediate aftermath of Michael van Gerwen’s World Championship triumph. This will be the biggest season in the competition’s history, with the overall prize money totalling £825,000.
The top four players on the PDC Order of Merit are automatic entries, therefore newly crowned world champion Michael van Gerwen, two-time winner Gary Anderson, world number three Peter Wright & two-time world champion Adrian Lewis did not have to rely on a wildcard selection.
Sky’s two wildcards were the legendary duo of Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld. Taylor is a six-time Premier League winner and reached last year’s final, where was he comprehensively beaten by Michael van Gerwen. Yet this is the first year in the competition’s history that he’s had to rely on a wildcard selection.
Taylor has endured mixed fortunes this year. He won the inaugural Champions League of Darts back in September, but this was an unranked event. He reached the World Matchplay final back in July, but suffered a first-round exit at the World Grand Prix, before losing in the World Championship last eight to his old adversary Barney.
Van Barneveld was Sky’s additional wildcard selection. The 49-year-old Dutchman has reached the play-offs on a remarkable eight occasions, and he lifted the trophy back in 2014 after defeating Phil Taylor and Michael van Gerwen on the same night.
The five-time world champion has performed superbly in the latter half of 2016, reaching the World Grand Prix semi-finals, the quarter-finals of the Grand Slam and Players Championship Finals, before losing in an epic semi-final tussle to Van Gerwen at Alexandra Palace just 24 hours ago, where he posted a 109.34 average in defeat.
The PDC committee then had the opportunity to choose four wildcards. Their first wildcard was world number five James Wade, who has enjoyed an excellent end to 2016. The eight-time major winner reached the Grand Slam Final in November, whilst he also reached the semi-finals of the European Championship in the preceding tournament.
Four-time major finalist Dave Chisnall was another PDC wildcard selection. ‘Chizzy’ was beaten in the final of November’s Players Championship Finals by Michael van Gerwen, whilst he also suffered defeat to ‘The Green Machine’ in an epic World Grand Prix semi-final back in October, which has seen him climb to seventh on the Order of Merit.
Two players making their Premier League returns include Jelle Klaasen and Kim Huybrechts. Klaasen made his Premier League debut back in 2009, where he finished bottom after Wayne Mardle’s withdrawal. Nevertheless, Jelle’s run to the semis at Ally Pally last year reinvigorated his career and ‘The Cobra’ currently sits 9th in the world.
Huybrechts made his Premier League bow back in 2015 and was relegated after nine weeks, despite boasting a tournament average of over 97. However, ‘The Hurricane’ has climbed the Order of Merit after some consistent showings on the European Tour, whilst he also reached the World Cup of Darts semi-finals and the World Grand Prix quarter-finals.
One notable omission includes world number eight Mensur Suljovic. In October, Suljovic revealed to Josh’s Dartistry that he was set to reject a Premier League invitation, although despite an apparent change of heart, the Austrian will not be one of the ten participants in this year’s event.
Michael Smith and Robert Thornton are the two players from last year’s line-up to miss out on this year’s event. Smith was relegated last year, whilst Thornton narrowly escaped the cut, finishing eighth. However, both have endured a difficult year which has seen them fall outside the world’s top ten.
Daryl Gurney and Benito van de Pas were also mentioned as potential candidates by Barry Hearn. Van de Pas won three Players Championship titles back in 2016 and pushed Gary Anderson all the way in a titanic last 16 tussle at Ally Pally, whilst Gurney reached his first ever World Championship quarter-final. Both missed out on this occasion however.
The Premier League will once again visit Rotterdam’s Ahoy Arena, after the soaring success of last year. The 8,000 capacity venue will play host to week seven of this year’s group phase matches, where they’ll be able to see their home favourites Van Gerwen, Van Barneveld and Klaasen all in action.
The semi-finals and final will once again take place at London’s O2 Arena on May 18th and the fixtures for the opening nine weeks of Premier League action will be released in due course.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2017 Betway Premier League
PDC Order of Merit Top Four
Michael van Gerwen – Two-time Premier League champion
Gary Anderson – Two-time Premier League champion
Peter Wright – 2016 World Series of Darts Finalist
Adrian Lewis- 2011 Premier League finalist
James Wade- 2009 Premier League champion
Phil Taylor- Six time Premier League champion
Dave Chisnall- 2015 Premier League semi-finalist
Raymond van Barneveld- 2014 Premier League champion
Jelle Klaasen- 2009 Premier League participant
Kim Huybrechts- 2015 Premier League participant
Fifth Place £65,000
Sixth Place £55,000
Seventh Place £50,000
Eighth Place £45,000
Ninth Place £30,00
Tenth Place £25,000
League Leader’s Bonus £25,000