Smith sent crashing out on day one of the Players Championships Finals.

On the first day of the 2023 Cazoo Players Championship Finals, Richard Veenstra defeated World Champion Michael Smith, while Michael van Gerwen began his title defence with a victory over Callan Rydz.

On Day One of the £600,000 event, all 64 players competed in the first round at Butlin’s Minehead Resort, with world number one Smith exiting in disgrace on Friday evening.

The St Helens star missed double 12 for a nine-darter midway through the tie, but was punished by a nerveless Veenstra, who averaged 97 to secure his greatest PDC triumph to date.

Van Gerwen, the reigning champion, avoided a similar tragedy, averaging 97 to begin his attempt for a record-extending eighth Players Championship Finals championship as he saw off Callan Rydz.

The Dutch superstar will now face eighth seed Ross Smith in the second round on Saturday afternoon, as the former European Champion averaged 98 and struck 120 and 130 finishes to defeat Scott Williams 6-2.

Luke Humphries, the newly crowned World Grand Prix and Grand Slam of Darts winner, escaped a scare to defeat Martin Lukeman, reeling off four straight legs from 4-2 down to extend his winning streak to eight games.

“I struggled to find my range early on,” admitted Humphries, who averaged 99.67 to complete an impressive fightback.

“The belief is what has changed in my game. When I’m staring defeat in the face I am beginning to find ways to turn it around and win, and I never panicked at any point there.“I’m a two-time major champion now, but I want to keep riding the crest of a wave, and my will to win is still greater than ever.”

In other news, first seed Gerwyn Price demonstrated his credentials with a ten-minute whitewash win over Ricky Evans, as he seeks his first PDC Premier ranking championship since October 2021.

“I know I’m playing really well – I’m flying,” insisted Price, who will now take on 2012 runner-up Kim Huybrechts after the Belgian fought back from 5-3 down to topple Martin Schindler.

“I’m practising well and every time I am losing, I’m averaging a ton-plus, and it’s taking someone to play really well to knock me out of the tournament.

“The first game is always tough, but I felt quite comfortable tonight and the crowd were brilliant.”

Gary Anderson, the second seed, had to come through a last-leg shoot-out against Steve Beaton, producing a 13-darter in the decider to win a battle of the experienced.

The 2014 champion will now face Dimitri Van den Bergh in a showdown as the Belgian took advantage of Jim Williams’ sloppy performance to reclaim his title.

Chris Dobey got through a difficult match against five-time World Champion Raymond van Barneveld, winning four of the last five legs to win 6-3.

Dobey’s reward is a second-round tie with fourth seed Dave Chisnall, who advanced to the last 32 with a 6-2 triumph against Lee Evans, average 99.

Runner-up in the Grand Slam Rob Cross, the runner-up in last year’s Players Championship Finals, rebounded from a slow start to beat Cameron Menzies 6-3 in a tense match.

James Wade will face Steve Lennon in the round of 16 after averaging 101.49 in a 6-2 demolition of William O’Connor to continue his strong run of form.

Niels Zonneveld averaged nearly 101 in dispatching 2018 champion Daryl Gurney, and he now meets 2017 runner-up Jonny Clayton, who dispatched Stephen Burton in his opening.

Damon Heta advanced over Jules van Dongen to face Dutchman Kevin Doets, who rallied from 4-2 down to defeat Jose de Sousa in a last-leg shoot-out.

Josh Rock, the 2022 World Youth Champion, and Germany’s number one Gabriel Clemens will also meet in round two, after tough wins against Rowby-John Rodriguez and Connor Scutt, respectively.

Earlier in the day, an in-form Stephen Bunting defeated Mickey Mansell with 164 and 134 checkouts to advance to a match against Gian van Veen.

Van Veen swept past compatriot Chris Landman in rapid succession, averaging 96 and pinning 75% of his double tries to advance to Saturday’s second round.

runner-up in 2021 Ryan Searle hit five 180s in his 6-4 victory over Boris Krcmar, setting up a meeting with Germany’s Ricardo Pietreczko, who defeated a struggling Christian Kist 6-1

Former Masters winner Joe Cullen defeated Jamie Hughes by the same score, setting up a second round meeting with Ryan Joyce, who defeated German newcomer Daniel Klose.

Brendan Dolan pinned all six of his double tries against Ritchie Edhouse to top off a faultless performance, and he will now face Krzysztof Ratajski’s conqueror, Maik Kuivenhoven.

Former World Cup finalist Lennon of Ireland defeated UK Open champion Andrew Gilding 6-3, winning the last three legs without reply.

In his 6-4 victory over Australian icon Simon Whitlock, Luke Woodhouse landed five maximums, while Matt Campbell delivered a sensational 139 skin-saver on his route to a comeback victory over Dylan Slevin.

The sixth seed Dirk van Duijvenbode, the highest-ranked seed to leave on an action-packed first day, was defeated by fellow countryman Jermaine Wattimena.

Meanwhile, Mario Vandenbogaerde defeated Mike De Decker in a battle of the Belgians, while Radek Szaganski of Poland cruised to a debut victory over Ian White.

Saturday’s double session in Minehead will be split between the Main Stage and Stage Two, with the second round taking place in the afternoon and the third round taking place in the evening.

2023 Cazoo Players Championship Finals

Friday November 24

First Round

Afternoon Session

Main Stage

Ross Smith 6-2 Scott Williams

Ryan Searle 6-4 Boris Krcmar

Damon Heta 6-1 Jules van Dongen

Gian van Veen 6-1 Chris Landman

Rob Cross 6-3 Cameron Menzies

Josh Rock 6-4 Rowby-John Rodriguez

James Wade 6-2 William O’Connor

Jonny Clayton 6-4 Stephen Burton


Stage Two

Radek Szaganski 6-2 Ian White

Luke Woodhouse 6-4 Simon Whitlock

Ryan Joyce 6-3 Daniel Klose

Mario Vandenbogaerde 6-1 Mike De Decker

Ricardo Pietreczko 6-1 Christian Kist

Stephen Bunting 6-4 Mickey Mansell

Gabriel Clemens 6-3 Connor Scutt

Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-4 Jim Williams


Evening Session

Main Stage

Matt Campbell 6-5 Dylan Slevin

Chris Dobey 6-3 Raymond van Barneveld

Richard Veenstra 6-3 Michael Smith

Gary Anderson 6-5 Steve Beaton

Gerwyn Price 6-0 Ricky Evans

Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Callan Rydz

Luke Humphries 6-4 Martin Lukeman

Dave Chisnall 6-2 Lee Evans


Stage Two

Kevin Doets 6-5 Jose de Sousa

Maik Kuivenhoven 6-4 Krzysztof Ratajski

Brendan Dolan 6-4 Ritchie Edhouse

Steve Lennon 6-3 Andrew Gilding

Niels Zonneveld 6-3 Daryl Gurney

Kim Huybrechts 6-5 Martin Schindler

Jermaine Wattimena 6-3 Dirk van Duijvenbode

Joe Cullen 6-1 Jamie Hughes