Robert Thornton, Simon Whitlock and Michael van Gerwen have all won their first ever PDC majors this season, suggesting that the winds of change are blowing strongly in the PDC. Not only is Phil Taylor's dominance waning (whisper it quietly), but the old guard of James Wade, Gary Anderson and Raymond van Barneveld are beginning to slip down the list in punters' reckonings.
This time last year the top-five in the betting for any event was monotonously predictable with Taylor at around Evens, followed by Lewis, Wade and Anderson at around 12.011/1 then Barney at slightly bigger odds. Now we've got Taylor pushing odds of 3.02/1, then it's Lewis, Whitlock and MVG at the 12.011/1 mark, followed by Wade, Barney and Anderson at 20.019/1s.
The plights - if they can yet be called such - of Wade, Anderson and Barney have all been worryingly linked to varying degrees of psychological problems. It is a disconcerting trait and there must be some concerns that these issues are linked, no matter how loosely, to the demands of the modern game. Let's hope not, but it's certainly something the authorities should at least monitor.
The Grand Slam is one of my favourite tournaments of the year. Not only does the event combine the two warring organisations for one week, but it also combines a number of different formats; beginning with the round-robin group stages and best-of-11 matches, and ending with a gruelling best-of-31 slogfest.
Taylor has won this title four of the five times it has been contested and his pedigree makes him impossible to write off as a bet at odds of 2.77/4. The Power has disappointed, by his own high standards, in recent televised majors, but did bounce back with victory in the Championship League last week.
However, the draw hasn't been kind to Taylor and he could be required to beat in-form duo Simon Whitlock and Michael van Gerwen, just to reach the final. The same logic can also be applied to the Wizard and Mighty Mike, so I'm avoiding all three (three of the top-four in the betting) for my outright bet this week.
The bottom half of the draw looks infinitely more open and is consequently where we should be focusing our betting attentions.
Wes Newton has taken another step up the PDC ladder this year by consistently reaching the final stages of major tournaments. The next step for him to negotiate is to go on and win a big title.
Drawn alongside Terry Jenkins and BDO duo Wesley Harms and Martin Phillips he should progress to the knockout stages with a minimum of fuss. In the second round he faces one of Barney, Christian Kist, Mark Walsh or Wayne Jones before possibly meeting another one of these men, or someone from his own group again in the quarter-finals. It's admittedly a confusing scenario written out in text, but the long and short of it is that he has a favourable route to the semis.
At odds of 29.028/1 Newton is worth a lumpy bet with a view to exercising the option to use the Betfair Cash Out function at the semi-final stage.
There are a number of group winner bets that I particularly like the look of - Whitlock to win Group C at 2.35/4 and Barney to top Group H at 2.89/5 to name a couple - but the one that stands out for me is the 5.04/1 available on Brendan Dolan to top Group F.
The Northern Irishman, a semi-finalist in the last two televised events, is no longer a journeyman of the sport and deserves more respect in what is a very open group. Andy Hamilton is a worthy favourite at 2.56/4 and expect Barrie Bates to be the whipping boy of the group, but Paul Nicholson should not be as short as 2.77/4 and certainly shouldn't be ahead of Dolan in the reckoning.
The newly-named 'History Maker' has a 4-0 head-to-head record over Nicholson, including two wins in the last fortnight, and has consistently out-performed the Aussie-Geordie on the big stage this year. Take Dolan to top Group F at odds of 5.04/1 and back him to qualify for the second round at odds of 2.111/10.
Back Wes Newton to win the Grand Slam of Darts @ 29.028/1
Back Brendan Dolan to win Group F @ 5.04/1
Back Brendan Dolan to qualify from Group F @ 2.111/10