Following on from the 'Favourites' section, I have chosen 4 players who may well make a big impression, and perhaps, with a little bit of good fortune, make it all the way.
James Wade is certainly part of the trickier half of the draw. However, he has had resurgent form this season, particularly towards the end of the year, claiming back to back titles, winning the European Championship and then a thrilling victory over Michael Smith at the World Series finals. Wade showed nerves of steel to win the latter and it could be this resolve that helps him progress. Coupled with a wealth of World Championship and big stage experience, the occasion shouldn't get to him too much. He does have a very tough second round encounter against another in form player in Krzysztof Ratajski, but if he wins, this may just give him the momentum to push through to the later stages. It's likely he will meet Gary Anderson or Michael van Gerwen at some point,but the pressure will be more on them and if Wade plays his own game, he might, just might, succeed.
Daryl Gurney won his first major title just at the right time, beating Michael van Gerwen in the Players Championship Final in November. This will give him an awful lot of confidence going into the early rounds. Once he gets his rhythm, any player will fear him. At times this season,he has been unbeatable and has been very consistent. He also had a very good Premier League, and this has certainly given him the springboard to progress to the next level. His section of the draw looks kind, with Dave Chisnall his likely major stumbling block. Then it's the quarter finals, with a potential match up against Gary Anderson. If he wins that, then he will fear no one!
By last year's standards, Rob Cross hasn't had the best year. But last year was an exceptional season and he was always going to have a period of adjustment. He hasn't been mentioned too much going into the World Championships, but what many seem to forget,is that he is the current World Champion. He knows what it takes to win, and is still one of the very best players in the world. On his day, he can beat anyone and if he can match last year's World Championship performances then he will be extremely tough to beat. Cross has also won two other titles this year,so he still commands respect. The magic of the World Championships will no doubt spur him on and the draw has been reasonably kind. If he can get to the quarter finals, then all is definitely to play for.
Ok, I admit this is a bit of a wildcard, but I've decided to go with Joe Cullen, as he seems to have transformed this season. Cullen hasn't always been lucky at the World Championships, but he has been a little unfortunate with his first round draws (Terry Jenkins x 2, Peter Wright, Michael van Gerwen for example).
This season has seen Cullen gain a new found confidence and his fear of losing has diminished.
He reached the Quarter Final of the World Matchplay and the semi final of the European Championship. He was very unlucky in the latter, as he lost 11-10 to Simon Whitlock.
The draw has been kinder this year too. Potentially he could face Peter Wright in the last 16 and then Gerwyn Price in the last 8. If he plays his best and maintains his heavy scoring, then a semi final is possible. Big odds offered for him, might even be worth a few pence to reach the final!
Well there's something else for you to think about, and tomorrow, I will write about some potential 'outsiders' who could cause an upset or two (or more) .