The 28th PDC World Championship is set to take place at London's Alexandra Palace between 18 December 2020 and 4 January 2021, and it promises to be a fascinating affair, as always. The World Championship never looks quite right without Phil Taylor among the favourites, given that The Power has a staggering 14 titles and 5 runner-up finishes to his name. While nobody else has been able to dominate quite like Taylor, this is a tournament where you expect to see the sport's big names contending at its business end.
Taylor is one of nine champions to lift the trophy since the PDC's flagship tournament began in 1994. Two-time champ John Part, Raymond van Barneveld, and the inaugural victor Dennis Priestley are the only previous winners who won't be at Alexandra Palace this year, so it will be a field brimming with quality. Van Barneveld and Priestley are two of just four one-time champions, so there's a strong chance that this year's tournament will be won by someone who has already proven that they know how to win.
History indicates that past losing finalists also stand a good chance of succeeding where they had once failed. Ignoring Priestley's record-breaking victory in the first tournament, there have only been three winners who had not previously made a final: van Barneveld, Adrian Lewis, and Rob Cross. This is a stage where the big-time players strut their stuff, so the former finalists in the field will hope to use their experience to their advantage.
Here's a brief overview of those players.
Van Gerwen heads up the PDC World Championship outright betting market, sitting at a price of 2/1 with Betway as of September 7th. That's a short price for a prospective tournament winner, but one that Mighty Mike justifies. He lost his five-year winning streak at the Masters earlier this year in a shock loss to Jonny Clayton, but there's nobody currently in professional darts who knows how to win like van Gerwen. That's why he tops the PDC Order of Merit with prize money of more than £1.5 million in the past two years.
The reigning champion, Wright is rightfully hot on the heels of van Gerwen in the betting markets. The Scotsman defeated the Dutchman 7-3 in last year's final, and Wright will look to emulate compatriot Gerry Anderson by winning back-to-back championships. Eight of Wright's thirteen major finals have come against van Gerwen, but that 2020 PDC final was his first triumph. If the two meet again in the final, the current champion won't be favorite.
Anderson is a force to be reckoned with every time the PDC championship comes around, with van Gerwen in 2017 the only thing stopping him from securing a three-peat. Anderson has no PDC major title since 2018, but discount the man with a nickname of the Flying Scotsman at your peril - he usually soars at this tournament.
One of darts' rising stars, the 29-year-old reached his first PDC championship final in 2019 before losing to van Gerwen. Smith has shown an ability to contend with four major finals in the last two years, but all have ended in defeat. However, Smith's record at the World Championship makes him the best candidate for a first-time winner of the tournament.
Cross has the impressive honor of taking down Taylor in The Power's last World Championship final, while he's since added World Matchplay and European Championship titles to a trophy cabinet that is growing steadily. Cross has exited the tournament without too much fanfare since the 2018 success, which is factored into his odds of 25/1.
Lewis hasn't progressed beyond the fourth round since that run to the final in 2016, but he has a great pedigree. In 2011, Lewis became the first to throw a nine-dart finish in a World Championship final, establishing himself as an icon that aspiring players have sought to emulate by purchasing his steel tip darts from Target Darts. However, the 2016 defeat to Anderson was Lewis' last appearance in a PDC major final, so his experience may not be enough to overcome in-form opponents.
Whitlock is a long shot, but you can never rule out a bit of magic at a major tournament. The Wizard vanished before the third round every year from 2015 to 2019, but a fourth-round departure last year shows Whitlock has a couple more spells in him. A 2012 European Championship shows Whitlock can deliver on the major stage, but he would be a shock winner at this year's World Championship.
While we could see a Gerwyn Price or a Glen Durrant make their first PDC World Championship final, the likelihood is that the tournament winner comes from this seasoned bunch. It's hard to look past van Gerwen and Wright at the head of the market, but former finalists lurking at bigger prices will always pose a challenge to the favourites.