The 2023 World Senior World Darts Championship gets under way this week with an array of legends in action and Paul Nicholson runs you through the field.
The Asset has come up against many of the 32 competitors during his playing career - including some memorable battles with Phil Taylor - while he'll be on commentary duty with BT Sport for much of their coverage of the tournament, which runs from Thursday to Sunday (Feb 9-12) at the iconic Circus Tavern.
So in his latest Sporting Life column, Nicholson guides you through draw and sheds some light on what this collection of former world champions, cult heroes and 'up and coming' veterans have been up to in preparation for their return to the limelight.
Robert Thornton opted against going to Q-School because he wanted to defend his World Senior Championship and World Senior Matchplay titles this season. Roland Scholten hasn't done much since competing in this event last year, when he averaged in the mid-70s during a 3-0 first-round defeat, and I can't see anything other than another whitewash.
A lot of people are tipping Scott Mitchell to win this tournament and for good reason. He looked in decent shape at Q-School despite not winning a Tour Card while he's also played well on the Challenge Tour so far this season. Peter Manley came to the Modus Super Series at the start of the year and had a nightmare. He played really poorly and it's just a question of how quickly Mitchell wins this one.
This is potentially the tie of the first round; the current WDF World Champion up against a four-time women's world champion. People who assume Duff will win should think again because Ashton will see this as a prime opportunity to write her own story having been in the shadows of Beau Greaves and Fallon Sherrock in terms of media attention. I think Neil might just shade it but I'm by no means confident about that prediction.
Keith Deller will probably admit that being ninth seed is quite flattering due to his standards over the past few years and his senior tour performances and Modus Live League outings in 2022 didn't make enough of a statement to suggest he's about to come roaring back. Michael Huntley will be much sharper having won a seniors qualifying event recently and I expect him to come through this one comfortably in four or less sets.
Three-time world champion Glen Durrant comes into his first seniors event as the fourth seed but you have to bear in mind all these seedings are largely based on CVs rather than form. He did win a tournament recently in the Amateur Darts Circuit which will give him a little bit of confidence but he's still underdog given all the struggles he's endured over the past few years. Mark Dudbridge was preparing for this event in Benidorm last week so should be ready for the heat of the Circus Tavern while he won a group of the Modus Super Series around three months ago and played very well. He's taking his first outing in the World Seniors very seriously and is hoping to reach the latter stages.
The tournament kicks off with this intriguing fixture that could well go the distance. Chris Mason is delighted to be involved and it's very well deserved considering how he rolled back the years to reach the Modus Super Series Champions Night at the back end of 2022. His journey to get there was remarkable and he played to a very high level, averaging over 100 on a few occasions. He hasn't played competitively since his Champions Week heroics because he was so knackered but kept his work schedule down in January so he could put the practice hours in. Terry Jenkins always keeps himself in decent touch and reached the semi-finals last year with a tournament average in the mid-80s while he was involved in the Modus Super Series a few weeks ago to get himself sharp. I expect a five-setter here. I have no coins in my pocket to flip and even if I did, I wouldn't know whether to call heads or tails.
Trina Gulliver is fifth seed purely because of a glittering career of 10 women's world titles but Dennis Harbour is still playing some good darts at this stage and booked his place here quite easily by winning a qualifying tournament recently. I expect him to win in three sets.
Kevin Painter likes to keep himself active and regularly averaged in the high 80s to low 90s during his appearances in the three world senior events last year, reaching two semi-finals. Ronnie Baxter, who we last saw in the PDC at the 2017 UK Open, now works as a driver and is appearing in his first World Seniors Championship but he did appear in the Matchplay last year, averaging 75 in a first-round defeat to Terry Jenkins. He must only play locally these days but these two go back many, many years so Kevin won't take Ronnie lightly at all. It could be closer than people expect but I'd still think Kevin will come through.
I have no personal vendetta against Phil Taylor whatsoever despite our history many years ago - but I do think Colin McGarry has a massive chance of causing an upset. It's a nightmare draw for Phil, who reached the quarter-finals here last year and then picked up two runners-up cheques at the Masters and Matchplay events. McGarry is a superb player and has produced some good stuff over the past year and averaged in the low 90s during his run to the World Seniors Matchplay quarter-finals, where he was edged out by Kevin Painter. He consistently went deep in other events on the senior tour, which he's made his home, and finished second on the qualification Order of Merit to reach his first worlds. I really see him winning this if Taylor gets off to a slow start. Phil will be practicing hard because he knows how dangerous Colin can be but even if he does get past this challenge, I'm not convinced he'll win the title.
Larry Butler is still playing great darts for his age and travels around the world trying to qualify for various events, such is his insatiable appetite for the sport. But DJ is also a very tidy player and has been for well over a decade - he even made a Pro Tour final in the last five years. He qualified for this due to finishing third on the Order of Merit after table-topper Richie Howson won the qualifiers, so he will be confident but Larry did average almost 90 in the first round last year and eventually bowed out to Martin Adams in the quarter-finals.
David Cameron is seventh seed due to winning the World Seniors Masters last year, when beating Phil Taylor in the final, while he also has very recent experience of Alexandra Palace having beaten Ritchie Edhouse 3-2 with an 88 average before upping that to 90 during a 3-1 defeat to Danny Noppert. Richie Howson has been playing the darts of his life in recent months - not only in the Modus Super Series but also when winning a couple of world senior qualification events that he didn't need to enter! He's also competing in his back garden because he lives just round the corner to the Circus Tavern and will have plenty of crowd support. He marginally lost to Martin Adams in the second round last year but did reach the Masters semi-finals, where Cameron beat him 5-2. Both players averaged around 90 that night so this has tie of the round all over it. On this occasion, I expect Richie to edge it in five sets.
Bob Anderson didn't win a set last year but his 180 was the viral moment of the World Championship. I'd love to think he can do it again but ultimately he'll lose quite comfortably to Andy Jenkins, who qualified due to finishing fourth on the Order of Merit. He's played some good stuff in the Modus Super Series and is always playing local events in Hampshire to stay sharp.
Dave Prins averaged 90 against both Paul Lim and John Lowe en route to the quarter-finals last year but he ran out of steam against Robert Thornton, bowing out 3-0 with a 77 average. Martin Adams won't take him lightly but he's played some decent darts in the Modus Super Series very recently and should be sharp enough to get through.
This will be a walk-on fest if nothing else! Tony O'Shea is always popular but we know how Leonard Gates loves to get a crowd going! He won a match at Ally Pally back in December before producing a highly creditable performance in a 3-1 defeat to Stephen Bunting. He’s also played some good stuff in a cricket tournament in Las Vegas recently. He'll be sharp and I'd expect him to win this one in four sets.
This is a hard one to call because John Part hasn't played much in the last year while there's a lot of mystery surrounding Co Stompe's form. He'll be practising with Roland Scholten but it's his first appearance on our TV screens for many years. That said, I did see him at the Lakeside last year and it looks like he hasn't aged! No result would surprise me here because there's a lot of unknowns.
Les Wallace didn't disgrace himself last year but he was a bit nervous and I'm not sure he has the old competitive fire to go far. I think he'll see this as a once in a year opportunity to try and showcase if he's still got something in the tank. Darryl Fitton keeps himself ticking over largely on the local scene but has plenty in the tank and should come through this relatively comfortably.
Whoever comes through the very top section of the draw out of Robert Thornton or Scott Mitchell will go very deep and into the semi-finals. In the bottom section of this half, I think we're looking at either Kevin Painter or the winner of Terry Jenkins v Chris Mason.
Many darts fans will be expecting - and hoping - to see Phil Taylor make a big run but I see other players producing better darts than him more consistently. He's in that mid-80s range too often these days and that won't win this tournament. In this half of the draw it’s the likes of Robert Thornton, Scott Mitchell and Chris Mason but there's plenty of dangerous players such as Richie Howson, Leonard Gates, Martin Adams and David Cameron, who beat him in the Masters final last year. I actually fancy Howson to reach the semi-finals from Taylor's section despite a very tough opener against Cameron. The very bottom section is probably the weakest part of the draw so if Gates is in the right mood and gets his counting right, he could well come through it ahead of Adams.
Out of the five names I've mentioned in the top half, I marginally fancy Scott Mitchell ahead of Robert Thornton but there's really not much in it.
Richie Howson is my finalist from the bottom half of the draw, especially now he has experience of this big stage unlike 12 months ago.
Mitchell begins the tournament as favourite but a final with Howson would be very hard to call.