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Ipswich-based Stephen Burton looks ahead to a crunch weekend with World Darts Championship spots and tour cards on the line

Stephen Burton is hoping to be ‘firing on all cylinders’ in Leicester this weekend when Cazoo World Championship spots and professional tour cards will be up for grabs.

The former Debenham High School pupil heads into the final four events of this year’s Winmau Challenge Tour in fourth place on the Order of Merit.

The top two at the end of the weekend will earn a spot in darts’ biggest tournament, at Alexandra Palace in December, as well as a two-year tour card onto the Professional Darts Corporation (PDC) circuit for 2023 and 2024.

Stephen Burton, a former Debenham High School pupil, is bidding to win his tour card back on the professional darts circuit this weekend Picture: PDC
Stephen Burton, a former Debenham High School pupil, is bidding to win his tour card back on the professional darts circuit this weekend Picture: PDC

For Ipswich's Burton, who made his World Championship debut four years ago, the main goal is to win a second tour card, having spent two seasons on the professional circuit from 2017 to 2018, before dropping off the tour.

“The tour card is the main aim, but if I can get a World Championship spot with it that would be a little bit sweeter,” the 34-year-old, who plays for Stowmarket-based Cedars Park in the Suffolk Super League, said.

“I’m around £500 off third at the moment. To be honest, my last weekend on the Challenge Tour was pretty much disastrous for me.

“I only picked up £150, but I didn’t play bad. I lost to Robert Owen in the early rounds one day and he won a title to leapfrog me.

“Another day Matthew Dennant averaged 107 in the first round against me and again there was not a lot I could have done about that.

“I had some tough draws, but I’m just hoping this last weekend I can be firing on all cylinders and hopefully give myself a good chance of finishing in the top three.”

Scott Williams, the runaway leader in this year’s Challenge Tour, sits top on £9,350, but perhaps crucially for Burton will take his spot in the World Championship via the ProTour rankings, having won an event on the PDC circuit earlier this year.

It leaves the two Alexandra Palace spots open to the players who finish in second and third, and it would be the same scenario with the tour cards if Williams finishes inside the top 64 on the main PDC Order of Merit after the World Championship, as he would earn a one-year tour card instead.

As things stand, Robert Owen (£5,600) and Danny van Trijp (£5,550) occupy second and third on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit, with Burton the closest behind them on £5,000.

“The main aim is to have another two years and dedicate myself a little bit more, because last time I didn’t really and I’ve been chasing it for the last three or four years,” Burton said.

“We’ve had Covid and it’s been difficult to play as much as I would have wanted, but it’s the same as everyone else. I just want to get back on the tour as soon as possible.”

The Challenge Tour finale takes place at the Morningside Arena, in Leicester, with a double-header of events on both Saturday and Sunday.

Each event offers a total prize pot of £10,000, with £2,000 going to the winner.