By Gareth James
The Ferret has burrowed his way upwards to seventh in the world after Jonny Clayton’s victory over Gerwyn Price in the all-Welsh battle for the World Grand Prix title.
Clayton – who continued his remarkable rise with a 5-1 victory over defending champion and good friend Price in Leicester – has gone up seven places from 14th to seventh in the new PDC Order of Merit.
The new champion picked up a cheque for £110,000 after securing a third Professional Darts Corporation title of 2021, his first in a major ranking event.
“It’s what dreams are made of,” said Clayton, from Pontyberem, after his triumph.
“It feels good. We all play to win a big major. It is a ranked major, it is my first one.
“I wouldn’t mind taking the big one off him at Christmas as well. I’m over the moon.”
“But the respect I’ve got for Gerwyn is absolutely second to none. He is a fantastic player, he’s a fantastic guy.
“To be fair, this crowd tonight let us play. You cannot ask for anything better. It was fantastic.”
Is that the best leg of the tournament?!
Gerwyn Price hit five perfect darts and had left 24 after nine and he didn’t get a shot!
Jonny Clayton backs up his 170 finish with a 164!!
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) October 9, 2021
World champion Price remains top of the pile in first position, with Peter Wright in second and former No.1 Michael van Gerwen in third.
It’s a big leap for Clayton, who also works as a plasterer for Carmarthenshire County Council, but has long threatened a breakthrough campaign from the edges of the world’s top 16.
In 2017, he made it to a first televised final at the Players Championship, where he was swept aside 11-2 by Dutchman Van Gerwen. Clayton went on to win the 2018 Austrian Open, beating compatriot Price.
Clayton, a keen rugby player at fly-half from which he takes his nickname, paired up with Price at the 2020 PDC World Cup of Darts.
The Welsh duo knocked out Russia, Scotland, Wales and Germany before claiming the title on the back of a 3-0 victory over England’s Rob Cross and Michael Smith.
In January, Clayton made a major statement by winning the Masters, which was held behind closed doors in Milton Keynes.
The field was expanded from 16 to 24 players, which saw Clayton included in the main draw. Victory over Jose De Sousa was followed by tense 10-9 wins against Van Gerwen and then James Wade before Clayton edged out defending champion Peter Wright in the semi-finals.
Jonny Clayton produced a spectacular display to end Gerwyn Price’s reign as World Grand Prix champion, beating ‘The Iceman’ 5-1 to win the biggest ranking title of his career
— Sky Sports Darts (@SkySportsDarts) October 9, 2021
Mervyn King was beaten 11-8 in the final as Clayton lifted the trophy to take £60,000 in prize money.
Victory in the Masters saw Clayton invited into the Premier League. He battled back from having slipped down to eighth to defeat Dimitri Van Den Bergh in his last group match to finish fourth in the table and qualify for the finals night in Milton Keynes.
Van Gerwen was defeated 10-8 in the semi-finals, a first loss for the Dutchman at that stage of the tournament, before De Sousa was dispatched 11-5 as Clayton secured the showpiece title and a cheque for £250,000.
Clayton, 47, became the first player to win the Premier League crown after finishing fourth in the group stage.
Victory at the Morningside Arena further swelled the Welshman’s prize fund to push him up into the top 10 of the PDC Order of Merit – and might now just be enough to consider hanging up his overalls for a while.