Thirty-two of the finest darts exponents the planet has to offer will converge on the iconic Winter Gardens venue in Blackpool from July 22-30, for one of the most prestigious events in the Professional Darts Corporation calendar.
The exact line-up is yet to be finalised as the world’s top-16 players will be joined by the next highest ranked 16 from the ProTour Order of Merit. A pair of European Tour competitions and two Players Championship events remain before the cut off as a host of hopefuls jostle to hold down a place in the sport's summer show-piece.
With a record tournament prize fund for 2017 of £500,000, the competition will be fierce and a fantastic view for fans within the auditorium itself and on television. Here we will look at some of the main contenders to walk away with the top prize of £115,000 at the seaside venue.
‘The Flying Scotsman’ Gary Anderson proved his own wellbeing on the oche recently by claiming one of two Players Championship events in Wigan – and was runner-up in the other final! Anderson, at 46 is beginning to reach the twilight of a glittering career that has seen the popular Scot become a double PDC World Champion and two-time Premier League winner amongst other highlights. Anderson has previously reached the semi-final stage twice as his best efforts in Blackpool – losing on both occasions to darting legend Phil Taylor – and will be looking to hopefully go further this time around.
Fellow Scot, Peter Wright is another player who has to come into calculations when looking for the potential World Matchplay winner at the end of July. No matter what happens for the rest of 2017 for ‘Snakebite’, it can be classed as a successful year for the man with the Mohawk, as Wright finally broke his PDC major duck by claiming the UK Open – admittedly with the injured van Gerwen side-lined. Wright almost, and quite honestly, should have added the Premier League title to his trophy cabinet back in May. Wright failed to find the final double with six match darts, as van Gerwen came back to snatch an unlikely victory, but to his credit, Wright has not let that get him down since and remains a strong contender in Blackpool.
English pair Phil Taylor and Adrian Lewis are likely to offer the strongest hopes of a home win at the World Matchplay. Taylor has a record at the Winter Gardens that is likely never to be bettered as the 16-times former World Champ also has an incredible 15 World Matchplay titles to his name. Taylor was unbeaten for 38 consecutive matches (2008-15) on the Blackpool stage until James Wade spoiled the run at the semi-final stage of the 2015 event. In what will be the final time that Taylor appears at the seaside venue before retirement, it would be a fitting tribute to see The Power have another good run for his last appearance.
Lewis has had somewhat of a lean period in recent times, but his ability is right up there with the very best, if he can perform to his talent on the Blackpool stage. A former runner-up of the World Matchplay, not surprisingly to Phil Taylor back in 2013, the former two-time World Champion knows what it takes to win the biggest prizes, so on that basis alone, he has to be considered as a potential outside chance of becoming the champion in 2017.
It must be said that it would be a huge surprise to see a different winner of the World Matchplay crown from any of the five players already mentioned, but Dave Chisnall, Michael Smith, Jelle Klassen and Raymond van Barneveld would be four other players who would have the potential to surprise at the seaside.