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Low-key League could hold key to star's rankings climb

By Western Gazette - North Dorset  |  Posted: September 27, 2012

TAKING AIM: Justin Pipe started his Championship League campaign yesterday after exiting the European Championship at the first hurdle last week. Picture by Lawrence Lustig/PDC

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CHAMPIONSHIP League Darts may not boast the crowds, glitz and glamour of a televised major but Justin Pipe is under no illusion as to how the event could boost his world rankings climb.

The Force from North Curry near Langport hit the oche yesterday, just days after competing in the European Championships in Germany, where he lost 6-3 to Brendan Dolan in the first round.

Pipe, currently ranked 11th in the world by the Professional Darts Corporation, wants to put pressure on the globe's top six by the end of the year and views this week's tournament as an ideal opportunity to make ground on – or even pass – tenth-placed Raymond van Barneveld.

The Championship League should suit the reigning ProTour champion, with players going head-to-head across two boards with just a camera broadcasting over a series of betting websites for company.

However, whereas a usual floor round carries a £35,000 prize fund, this week's competition at Crondon Park, Essex boasts a £200,000 pot.

Entrants win cash per leg with the eventual winner earning a Grand Slam spot. The PDC's top eight players locked horns on Tuesday, with the top performer progressing to next Thursday's final group, the bottom two eliminated from the competition and three new faces entering the fray each day.

Pipe said he was focused on lasting as long as possible in the Championship League, drawing attention to the big money opportunities up for grabs.

"I am hoping to stay in it for quite a while because it is good money," he said. "Adrian Lewis won £19,000 from it last year and didn't even make the final, it's mad. It is top money in that one.

"It's the first to six and we have seven games a day so it is very much like a ProTour. There are only two dartboards and there's nobody else in there. It will be an interesting experience, I've heard a lot about it and I am looking forward to it.

"It is a very similar set-up to the ProTours with the dartboards and a camera filming it. We will see what happens."

However, Pipe added that is where parallels with the floor competition ended: "It is a major. If you make it to the final you are classed as a major finalist and automatically in the Grand Slam. The PDC class it very highly so it is definitely a big one."

Pipe has been drawn to face European Championship winner Simon Whitlock in the opening clash of next month's PartyPoker.com World Grand Prix in Dublin.

The popular Australian, ranked fifth in the world, beat Wes Newton in the Muelheim final on Sunday to lift his first ever major crown, just seven days after triumphing in the ProTour at Barnsley.

The doubles-in Grand Prix - where Dolan last year created history by registering the first nine-dart finish - starts on October 8.

Pipe will be in Dublin for two days leading up to the tournament, competing in Players Championship rounds in the city.

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