The World Matchplay begins on the 22nd of July at the legendary Winter Gardens in Blackpool, with top seed Michael Van Gerwen looking to continue his domination of the sport with a third successive victory at the tournament. Will the Dutchman be able to continue his terrific form at the event and continue his remarkable 2017 when he opens up against Stephen Bunting?
The draw was made on the 11th of July for the first round of the World Matchplay and the aforementioned Michael Van Gerwen will face Stephen Bunting on the opening day of the event. The Dutchman has faced 'The Bullet' 13 times and won on ten different occasions, but was surprisingly beaten when they last met in March 2016 at the PDPA Players Championship in Barnsley. That victory helped secure the St Helens-based player just his second PDC ranking title.
The Lakeside Champion will be hoping to cause problems for 'Mighty Mike' once more, although the Dutchman was victorious during their previous only meeting at a major event. Bunting managed to reach the last 16 of this tournament back in 2014 but failed to make an impact at last year's event.
It's been a memorable year for the world number one, having wrapped up the World Championship, World Cup of Darts (alongside Raymond Van Barneveld) and the Premier League of Darts. In the latter, he fought back to overturn a 7-3 deficit against an in-form Peter Wright.
Many pundits have suggested that the Scot could be Van Gerwen's biggest threat at this year's tournament and the third seed begins the competition with a straightforward-looking match against James Wilson. His opponent, who hails from Huddersfield, is making his debut in the tournament after successfully coming through qualifying earlier in the month. Wright was recently victorious in the European Darts Open, beating Mervyn King 6-2 in the final of the Leverkusen event.
Last year's beaten finalist and 15-time winner of the event, Phil Taylor, competes in his final World Matchplay tournament. 'The Power' was beaten 18-10 by Michael Van Gerwen 12 months ago and will be aiming to bounce back from that disappointment on his final trip to the North West of England. The 57-year-old is retiring at the end of the year and has claimed that this event has a special place in his heart – although he hasn't secured the title here since 2014. He has been seeded eighth for this year's competition and opens up against Gerwyn Price. If successful, he could go head to head with Raymond Van Barneveld in the second round.
Second seed Gary Anderson reached the semi-finals here in last year's renewal and will be aiming to go one better this time around. He starts against qualifier Christian Kist. Anderson has been priced up as the second favourite for the tournament with Michael Van Gerwen installed at the head of the market. If you're thinking of backing the Dutchman for success in 2017, it may be worth taking a look at Oddschecker to see the full range of welcome bonuses available ahead of the event.
James Wade who was victorious here ten years ago and has reached the final on a number of occasions starts against Darren Webster, whilst Robert Thornton faces Cristo Reyes, who became the first Spanish player to break into the top 32 of the rankings and recently reached the semi-finals of the Austrian Open. He'll provide a stern test for the Scot.
Adrian Lewis doesn't have a great history at this tournament but reached the semi-final last year, where he was beaten by the eventual champion Michael Van Gerwen. He starts against Steve Beaton this time around. Lewis has had a number of health problems in 2017 but has declared himself 'pain-free' following recent surgery.
Other notable match-ups include Dave Chisnall v Mervyn King, Simon Whitlock v Kyle Anderson, Kim Huybrechts v Alan Norris and Raymond Van Barneveld v Joe Cullen.
It's set to be another terrific tournament and the atmosphere is bound to be electric once again. World number one Michael Van Gerwen arrives in Blackpool in mesmeric form and is widely expected to retain his title once again, but there are a number of competitors aiming to bring a halt to the Dutchman's dominance. Will he prove to be head and shoulders above the rest of the pack once more?