Chris Dobey is currently the hottest thing in darts. The world number 21. won the Masters sensationally at the weekend, is therefore nominated for the Premier League on Monday and gets the day's win there on Thursday evening. At the end of the month, however, the focus is on football for the Englishman.
The sport of darts is experiencing the week of underdog victories. Chris Dobey surprisingly won the first day of the Premier League in Belfast. The participation of the 32-year-old Englishman a week earlier was still completely utopian.
Chris Dobey, nicknamed "Hollywood", was one of many before the Masters last weekend, number 21 in the world. One of many talented players from England, but not one for the really big moments. Dobey had never progressed past the semifinals of a major tournament. That's one of the reasons why Dobey started last weekend as one of the biggest outsiders in the Masters, the first major tournament after the World Cup. Only the top 24 in the world rankings qualify for the event in Milton Keynes, Dobey is 21.
Then suddenly the crazy run of the Englishman started. Five wins against players from the top 13 in the world. Every time a point average between 94 and 96. Impressively constant, without outliers at the bottom or at the top. Dobey not only made it into a major final for the first time, he also won it against 2018 world champion Rob Cross. Fully deserved and almost frighteningly sovereign with 11:7.
A day later, Dobey was able to celebrate even greater success. The PDC announced the illustrious group of eight Premier League participants. And Dobey was called up at the last minute due to his surprise Masters win.
So the man from near Newcastle started for the first time in the elite league of darts on Thursday evening. Accompanied by some criticism for his, in the eyes of some, unjustified participation. Dobey gave the critics the best possible sporting response to the Premier League opener in Belfast. He defeated second in the world rankings Peter Wright (6:3), compatriot Nathan Aspinall (6:4) and defending champion Michael van Gerwen (6:5), thus securing the first day's win and £10,000 in extra prize money. "I'm living my dream. I know what I'm capable of. My confidence is sky high at the moment. I want to be at the top all the time," said Dobey, who has now defeated eight players from the top 13 in a row.
The Premier League is played on 17 consecutive Thursdays. Each time, the eight participants compete against each other in a mini-tournament. Anyone who makes it into the semi-finals gets two points, the defeated finalist three, and the day's winner five points. The four players with the most points will play out the Premier League winners on May 25 in London. In the past two years, the winner of the Masters (2021 Jonny Clayton, 2022 Joe Cullen) has made it into the final of the top league. So does Chris Dobey's dream journey continue?
It's getting complicated for "Hollywood", especially with a view to the tournament calendar. If the events of the European Tour start parallel to the Premier League, Dobey has a disadvantage. Because he is not seeded for the ranking list tournaments, he must then first play a qualifier and, if successful, then already on Friday on the Euro Tour. The other top players only have to play on Saturdays.
Things get even more complicated when you look at Chris Dobey's other passion. The northern Englishman is a big fan of English football club Newcastle United. With the help of Saudi Arabian money, the "Magpies" are not only third in the Premier League but also in the final of the League Cup. The match against Manchester United will be played on February 26 at London's Wembley Stadium. The first tournament on the European Tour, the Baltic Sea Darts Open in the Wunderino Arena in Kiel, is also taking place this very weekend.
For Dobey it is clear where the priorities lie: his passion for football triumphs over his job as a darts professional and the chance of £25,000 in prize money for the world rankings, Wembley Stadium wins over the Wunderino Arena, London over Kiel. After his nomination for the darts elite league, he received a text message from Newcastle legend and Premier League record scorer Alan Shearer, Dobey wrote on Twitter. "I'm at a loss for words, that means the world to me."
The Newcastle fan will not even try to qualify for the tournament in Kiel. The same goes for his darts buddy Callan Rydz, number 23 in the world. "The Riot" is also a big Newcastle fan and doesn't want to miss the final. "Oh no, I had to cancel Tournament 1 of the European Tour because of my foot injury, which I don't have yet," Rydz wrote on Twitter on Tuesday evening after the "Magpies" semi-final victory.