Shot's Player Preview World Darts Championship 2024

Shot's Player Preview World Darts Championship 2024

The culmination of another phenomenal 12 months of PDC action sees 96 hopeful players head to the Alexandra Palace to compete in the World Darts Championship and in a year where the strength in depth has arguably been higher than ever in this sport, we are incredibly proud and excited to have four Shot representatives ready to battle it out in the iconic tournament this year.

Michael Smith realised his dream when he pinned double eight to beat Michael van Gerwen in a captivating and totally absorbing final last year, a triumph that also took him to number one in the world.

Bully Boy could well kick-start the defence of his title against another Shot player on the opening night as he has been drawn to face the winner of Stowe Buntz and Kevin Doets.

The Neon Nightmare exploded onto the PDC scene when he made his big TV debut at the recent Grand Slam of Darts in Wolverhampton, making everyone sit up and take note of his very clear talent.

His overall finishing percentage of 36.78 doesn’t fully paint the picture of just how much of a strength this aspect of his game was, especially in the group stages of the event. He pinned five of his 11 darts at double in his debut match against Peter Wright, where he averaged in excess of a ton in a confident and assured display to down Snakebite before backing that up with 50% checkout success in his win over another World Champion in The Bullet, Stephen Bunting. In addition to beating two World Champions, Buntz also got the better of this year’s UK Open winner, Andrew Gilding.

A history making week for Stowe saw him become the first American player to reach the quarter-final stage of the Grand Slam and whilst it was a run that ultimately came to an end at that stage, it helped generate quite a lot of excitement, with many darts fans now believing that he could be about to make a few more headlines as he looks to replicate his achievements on the biggest stage of all.

When asked what he’d learnt about himself and his game from his exploits in Wolverhampton, a typically jokey and modest response of “I’m just a really lucky guy” helped to sum up just why the successful 44-year-old gained such overwhelming support from fans in the UK.

Buntz encapsulates a lot of what’s great about this game, he plays it in the right spirit, was often picked up on camera joining in with the chants from fans, had a broad smile on his face throughout and cheered when his opponents did something special. A lot commented that it was incredibly refreshing to see a player exude such joy and acknowledge the fortunate position he found himself in, to be earning a living by doing something he loves so dearly and we hope that if he does manage to set up a clash with Michael Smith, the two Shot representatives can put on one almighty show in London.

Reflecting on his achievements at the Grand Slam, Stowe said: “I’ve learnt a lot from the experience. Yes, I expected to achieve this stuff and to qualify for these tournaments but I didn’t expect it all to be happening this fast. I’m really proud of what I’m doing."

“Family life is great, work is working really well for me and that side of things is allowing me to play with great freedom. When I turn up at a darts tournament, I can focus purely on that without feeling any external pressure.”

Things are happening very quickly for the man from Virginia who has enjoyed a remarkable few months on the North American Tour but he fully believes he has a lot more to give and levels that he has not yet shown us.

Haupai Puha has also qualified for the tournament and will grace the Ally Pally stage for the second time in his career, he lost out to Mickey Mansell on debut back in December 2020 but will certainly feel better equipped this time around to make a mark. Hopes has acquired significant experience on the big stage since he first appeared in the PDC World Championship, as shown with his victory over Dimitri Van den Bergh in the New Zealand Darts Masters.

The 38-year-old will face Martin Lukeman in the opening round with the winner returning on Thursday December 21st to take on Australia’s number one, Damon Heta!

Hopes is warming up for the challenge by making his debut in the Modus Super Series in Portsmouth where he will compete against the likes of John Henderson, Alec Small and Andreas Harryson for a chance of claiming the £5,000 weekly prize as well as a spot in Champions Week, something fellow Shot player Raymond Smith has previously achieved, of course.

Hopes should be full of confidence having been reaching the latter stages of tournaments in Australia and New Zealand with great regularity over recent months, winning on the New Zealand Darts Tour and picking up the Ted Clements Memorial title, beating Jonny Tata in a wonderfully competitive final.

He also gained valuable experience and exposure to the PDC scene at the World Series of Darts Finals, beating Graham Usher before coming close to causing a real upset when he took on Peter Wright and pushing him all the way, so he should feel right at home on a big PDC stage this month.

As for Niels Zonneveld, he secured his return to the palace via the Pro Tour Order of Merit. His run at the Players Championship Finals a few weeks ago went somewhat under the radar as a number of exceptional performances saw him reach the Last 16 of the tournament for the first time in his career. Whilst he ran out of steam against Gabriel Clemens, there were plenty of positives to take from that weekend in Minehead and his form overall ahead of his third World Championship campaign.

Zonneveld is still looking for his first win on the Ally Pally stage having lost out to Willie O’Connor on debut and Lewy Williams last year, both by 3-0 score lines.

Given his form heading into the PDC’s showcase event this year, you’d have to say this is his best chance yet of claiming that maiden success. He takes on Darren Webster who came through the PDC Tour Card Holder Qualifier to book his spot in the tournament. The pair have met once before, Webster was victorious on that occasion but it was over four years ago.

We wish all of our players the very best of luck and will be exceptionally proud to see them represent Shot on the biggest stage of all. Let’s go, Shot Darts Tribe.

Photo courtesy of Kieran Cleeves/PDC