Michael van Gerwen and Kyle Anderson collide (credit:PDC)
The inaugural New Zealand Masters kicks off in Hamilton on Friday as the eight PDC invites face off against Oceanic opposition in Round One.
The tournament is the fifth and final World Series event to be held in 2019 before the World Series Finals in November and is the third Oceanic event in consecutive weeks.
Formerly known as the Auckland Masters, the tournament has now been relocated to Hamilton as the sport continues its growth across the Oceanic region.
Michael van Gerwen, who claimed last year’s Auckland Masters title, starts his bid for back-to-back World Series triumphs with a clash against Australian ace Kyle Anderson.
The world number one roared back to winning ways and ended his 86-day title drought in Melbourne last week and will look to secure top seeding for November’s finals by taking glory here.
Van Gerwen also ended his 15-game run without a ton-plus average and will aim to pick up from where he left off by recording a tenth consecutive win over the Aussie number two.
Anderson, whose maiden televised title came at the 2017 Auckland Masters, lost in the opening round in Melbourne after a Quarter-Final whitewash in Brisbane a fortnight ago.
Peter Wright enters the tournament as the number one seed and begins his bid for a second World Series title of the season with a tie against Brisbane Masters champion Damon Heta.
Wright claimed the German Masters crown earlier this year as well as reaching the Semi-Finals in Las Vegas and Melbourne, but is tasked with a tricky opener against the surprise package of the series so far.
Heta defied the odds as a 150/1 outsider to claim the crown in Brisbane and went on to thrash James Wade 6-1 in Melbourne before eventually going down to Rob Cross in the Last Eight.
The 32-year-old, who will relocate to the UK later this year before entering Q School in January, will look to end an unforgettable month on a high by claiming yet another high-profile scalp.
Raymond van Barneveld, last year’s Auckland Masters runner-up, looks to avoid an early exit in his final Oceanic appearance as a professional when he takes on home favourite Cody Harris.
Van Barneveld, who will retire at the end of the season, has lost in back-to-back Quarter-Finals Down Under, but will take encouragement from his 106 average in thrashing Harris’ World Cup team-mate Haupai Puha 6-1 last week.
World Cup quarter-finalist Harris is making his first World Series appearance of the season and his seventh in total since 2015, having yet to progress beyond the First Round stage.
Gary Anderson is yet to reach a World Series Semi-Final in four attempts this season by aims to kick-start a strong run by overcoming Kiwi number two Puha.
Anderson has lost in successive Quarter-Finals over the past two weeks, most recently to Van Gerwen in Melbourne, and could be on course for a rematch with his Dutch nemesis should they both come through their opening matches.
Puha, meanwhile, has suffered back-to-back exits at the hands of Van Barneveld, but now faces an even tougher test against the Champions League of Darts winner who appears to be regaining some consistency after missing much of the first half of the season through injury.
World Matchplay champion Rob Cross looks to avert a potential banana skin at the hands of Kiwi veteran Warren Parry – who famously came from 5-1 down to defeat MVG 6-5 in the 2014 Sydney Masters.
Daryl Gurney is aiming to go one better than his runner-up spot in Melbourne last time out and commences his campaign against DPA qualifier David Platt – who has featured in eight previous World Series events, losing in the First Round of each.
Simon Whitlock, semi-finalist in Brisbane a fortnight ago, opens up against DPNZ qualifier Ben Robb – who pushed him all the way to a deciding leg in their First Round meeting in Auckland last year.
The opening match of the evening sees reigning World Series Finals champion James Wade looking to bounce back from successive First Round exits Down Under by seeing off DPNZ number two Craig Caldwell – a three-time BDO World Championship qualifier.
The action gets underway from 7am BST (6pm local time), with all matches to be contested over the best of 11 legs.
Television coverage in the UK is delayed, however you can watch every match LIVE via the link below.
New Zealand Darts Masters 2019 Match Schedule
All times BST (Local time eleven hours ahead)
Friday August 23
7.15am James Wade v Craig Caldwell
7.45am Simon Whitlock v Ben Robb
8.15am Daryl Gurney v David Platt
8.45am Rob Cross v Warren Parry
9.15am Gary Anderson v Haupai Puha
9.45am Peter Wright v Damon Heta
10.15am Michael van Gerwen v Kyle Anderson
10.45am Raymond van Barneveld v Cody Harris