Van Barneveld begins his penultimate major campaign (credit:Kelly Deckers/PDC)
A plethora of big names begin their 2019 Players Championship Finals campaigns in Minehead on Friday evening as the First Round action continues.
The £500,000 major features 64 players battling it out in a culmination of the 30 Players Championship events held during the course of the season.
Play in the early rounds will be held across two stages, with main stage matches televised and matches from Stage Two streamed exclusively live online.
Daryl Gurney, who claimed this title for the first time 12 months ago with an epic victory over Michael van Gerwen in the final, begins his title defence against debutant Luke Woodhouse on the Main Stage.
Gurney doubled his major title tally by dethroning MVG last time out and has reached a further two major Semi-Finals since, while also claiming the German Championship title and a ProTour success.
Woodhouse, meanwhile, is making his third appearance in a PDC major – a first outside of the UK Open – after reaching the Quarter-Finals of a ProTour event in June.
Michael van Gerwen, who first triumphed in 2013 before winning this title consecutively between 2015 and 2017, kicks off his latest quest for glory with a tie against Premier League ‘Contender’ Luke Humphries.
Van Gerwen’s limited involvement in floor tournaments this year means he comes here as the number 18 seed, and has been handed a tricky opener against the Development Tour star who will feature in the final of the World Youth Championship on Sunday.
Nathan Aspinall returns to Butlins Minehead for the first time since his fairy-tale UK Open triumph back in March and has been handed a box office show-down against departing legend Raymond van Barneved.
Aspinall is aiming to bounce back from last week’s Group Stage exit at the Grand Slam, but knows he can ill-afford a repeat performance against the five-time World Champion who is making his penultimate appearance in a TV major before retirement at the end of the season.
Number one seed Gerwyn Price aims to pick up from where he left off in retaining the Boylesports
Grand Slam title last weekend when he meets Northern Ireland’s Mickey Mansell – who famously knocked Gary Anderson out of this event in 2017.
Kim Huybrechts, runner-up here in 2012, opens up with a gruelling test against former Champions League of Darts winner Mensur Suljovic – who is bidding to return to form after a relatively quiet season by his standards, notably failing to qualify for the recent Grand Slam.
World number 20 Krzysztof Ratajski, seeded number three courtesy of his two Players Championship event wins this year, starts out against World Cup of Darts finalist Steve Lennon – who also featured in last week’s Grand Slam.
Adrian Lewis aims to sustain the form which saw him end a two-year wait for a major Quarter-Final in Wolverhampton last week when he plays emerging talent Josh Payne – a former ProTour event winner.
European Matchplay winner Joe Cullen, who missed out on a place in the Grand Slam, aims to hit the ground running by overcoming former Auckland Masters winner Kyle Anderson – who recently attributed diabetes to his struggle on the oche this season.
James Wade, seeded number one after five ProTour titles this season, faces a tough opening salvo against rising star Ted Evetts – winner of a staggering eight Development Tour title this year.
Peter Wright, runner-up in last week’s Grand Slam, aims to go one better this weekend and kicks off his pursuit of glory with a tie against former BDO number one James Wilson on the Main Stage.
Stage Two sees World Matchplay and European Champion Rob Cross in action against Dutch left-hander Ron Meulenkamp, while Jamie Hughes aims to avenge his European Championship defeat to Jermaine Wattimena last month when the pair collide once again.
German Masters finalist Gabriel Clemens, who enjoyed a fine Grand Slam as a group winner, faces former Lakeside finalist Mark McGeeney, while former UK Open finalist Vincent van der Voort meets former World Youth Champion Arron Monk.
Jony Clayton, who is defending his runner-up prize money from two years ago, starts out against Ipswich left-hander Ryan Meikle, as World Cup of Darts finalist William O’Connor plays the vastly experienced Steve West.
The action gets underway from 7pm GMT, with First Round matches to be contested over the best of 11 legs.
Players Championship Finals 2019 Match Schedule
Friday November 22
Evening Session (7pm-11pm)
Krzysztof Ratajski v Steve Lennon
Gerwyn Price v Mickey Mansell
James Wade v Ted Evetts
Mensur Suljovic v Kim Huybrechts
Daryl Gurney v Luke Woodhouse
Michael van Gerwen v Luke Humphries
Peter Wright v James Wilson
Nathan Aspinall v Raymond van Barneveld
Jonny Clayton v Ryan Meikle
Joe Cullen v Kyle Anderson
Vincent van der Voort v Arron Monk
Gabriel Clemens v Mark McGeeney
Adrian Lewis v Josh Payne
William O’Connor v Steve West
Jermaine Wattimena v Jamie Hughes
Ron Meulenkamp v Rob Cross