Dawson Murschell enjoyed a giant-killing for the second successive year at the William Hill US Darts Masters by knocking out Gerwyn Price in Friday’s first round at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.
The Canadian youngster overcame James Wade 12 months ago, and captured another big-name victim to move through to the final day of the World Series of Darts event.
Murschell came from a leg down to lead 3-1 with the aid of a 96 finish, and also took out 86 as he went on to complete another memorable win with a 6-2 success.
“I’m really happy to get through, and I love Las Vegas!” said Murschell, who was also a semi-finalist in Thursday’s William Hill North American Championship.
“I had a couple of bad legs but my timing was good. Last year I came in and wanted to win my first round, but I’m here to win the whole thing this year.
“I want to have a good go at it. I know I can do anything if I put my mind to it.”
Murschell now takes on two-time World Champion Gary Anderson, who hit five 180s and an outstanding 112.63 average in his superb 6-1 win over American ace DJ Sayre with the stand-out performance of the first round.
Reigning champion Michael van Gerwen made a merciless start to his title defence, taking only ten minutes to whitewash Jeff Smith 6-0.
Canada’s Smith had won Thursday’s North American Championship, but was brought back to earth with a bump as Van Gerwen averaged 101.33, restricting his opponent to just three darts at a double.
“It was a good start for me,” said Van Gerwen. “I took my chances and did what I had to do to win this game. Jeff is a good player but he couldn’t do something special like he did yesterday.
“There are no easy games, especially in the short format, but now the formats get longer and I’ll be more in my comfort zone. I know I can do even better than this and I need to make sure I keep focused.”
Wade produced a magical 158 checkout to win the deciding leg of his tie with Danny Lauby, who missed two match darts in leg nine before seeing his hopes shattered.
American left-hander Lauby defied a 141 checkout from Wade by taking out 120 and 101 as he opened up a 5-3 lead, only to miss double top and ten to claim the biggest win of his fledgling career.
After snatching leg nine, Wade landed six perfect darts with two 180s as he levelled the game, before sealing the win with a brilliant 158 finish in the decider.
Having lost out at the same stage to Murschell 12 months ago, Wade admitted: “I must bring out the best in players.
“He played really well – I didn’t play badly but I hit some fortunate finishes and he missed some finishes. I’m happy to go forwards.”
World Champion Rob Cross produced a classy display to defeat Canadian qualifier Ross Snook 6-1, averaging 105.73 and hitting six doubles from eight attempts.
“It was a decent start and I’ve really been looking forward to this,” said Cross, competing for the first time in Las Vegas. “I feel happy with myself at the moment and I’m playing well.”
Cross opens the final day with a quarter-final tie against Premier League runner-up Michael Smith, who also dropped just one leg during his victory over another Canadian, David Cameron.
Peter Wright was forced to work hard before finally seeing off America’s Joseph Huffman 6-4 in their first round tie.
The carpenter from Maryland led three times, but crucially missed his chance to open up a two-leg lead in the sixth leg, as Wright levelled and then edged himself ahead before closing out the win.
Wright now meets 2017 US Darts Masters finalist Daryl Gurney, who took out finishes of 101 and 145 as he overcame early resistance from Canada’s John Norman Jnr to take a 6-2 win from their tie.
The PDC World Series of Darts event concludes on Saturday with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.
2018 William Hill US Darts Masters
Friday July 6
Michael Smith 6-1 David Cameron
James Wade 6-5 Danny Lauby
Rob Cross 6-1 Ross Snook
Dawson Murschell 6-2 Gerwyn Price
Gary Anderson 6-1 DJ Sayre
Michael van Gerwen 6-0 Jeff Smith
Peter Wright 6-4 Joseph Huffman
Daryl Gurney 6-2 John Norman Jnr
All games best of 11 legs
Saturday July 7 (12pm local time)
Rob Cross v Michael Smith
Peter Wright v Daryl Gurney
Gary Anderson v Dawson Murschell
Michael van Gerwen v James Wade
Wright/Gurney v Cross/Smith
Anderson/Murschell v Van Gerwen/Wade
All games best of 15 legs