PDC World Championship: Can Stephen Bunting do the double?

By Phil CartwrightBBC Sport
Stephen Bunting
Stephen Bunting beat Alan Norris to win the BDO World Championship title at Lakeside in January
PDC World Championship 2015
Venue: Alexandra Palace Date: 18 December 2014 - 4 January 2015

Stephen Bunting has one New Year's resolution - to become the undisputed champion of the world.

Since darts split into two governing bodies in 1993, the Professional Darts Corporation and the British Darts Organisation have staged their own versions of the World Championship.

Bunting will become only the second player, after John Lowe at the inaugural PDC World Championship in 1994, to feature at the event while still the reigning champion at Lakeside.

No player has held both world titles at the same time.

Bunting wins first BDO darts title

"That's what I'm aiming for and it would be something special," said Bunting, who plays either Jermaine Wattimena or Robert Marijanovic in the first round on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old from St Helens told BBC Sport: "If I could pull it off, people would talk about it for years. It would be fantastic to do.

"I'm pushing myself towards being one of the favourites for the title and I know my form's good, so who's to say I can't do it?"

Less than two weeks after claiming a maiden world title at Frimley Green, Bunting accepted the PDC's offer of a two-year tour card.

"You come over to the PDC with the confidence of being a world champion and that helped me a lot," he said.

"For a few years I'd always thought about the PDC. I've still got a lot of friends in the BDO but, judging by my performances now and the media coverage I'm getting on this side, I think it was the right decision."

It is hard to argue with that. Bunting won his second tournament as a fully-fledged PDC player, a UK Open qualifier in Wigan.

He continued: "It was a massive thing to do and it gives you so much more confidence knowing that you can win tournaments on this side.

"I always know that if I'm on the top of my game, I can beat anyone, so that sort of proved it really."

Since then, Bunting has enjoyed an exceptional year.

Defeating the greatest
Stephen Bunting and Phil TaylorBunting beat Phil Taylor in the European Championship second round in October, his first win over the 16-times world champion on TV."That was a fantastic feeling, then I lost in the next round to Terry Jenkins," said Bunting. "A lot of people seem to beat Phil and then lose."I played absolutely brilliantly that weekend and Terry played out of his skin, and I've got no qualms about him beating me."Deep within myself, I know that if I can beat Phil, I can beat any player on the circuit. It was a satisfying win."

A run to the semi-finals of the World Grand Prix in October is his best performance in a major televised tournament thus far, followed by quarter-final appearances at the European Championship and the Grand Slam of Darts.

Winnings of £94,250 have lifted him up to 28th in the PDC's Order of Merit, a system based on earnings during a two-year period. So, for the next 12 months at least, his ranking should continue to climb.

"When I made the switch, the aim was just to get to Blackpool [for the World Matchplay in July]," Bunting revealed.

"To be in every TV tournament bar one is absolutely fantastic and something I couldn't have dreamed of. It's been a whirlwind and continues to be one."

He continued: "Obviously you've got the likes of Phil Taylor, Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson, Raymond van Barneveld, Dave Chisnall, Michael Smith - there's so much talent.

"You've got to average between 95 and 100 just to stick in there and maybe win. It can only improve me playing against these players.

"I know I've got to improve my game to win any title. It's something that's hard, but it's something that's doable. Putting the hours in and working towards winning a major is something that I'm looking to do."

And while testing himself against the sport's elite has been a fruitful and rewarding challenge for Bunting, he admits there will be a tinge of sadness when the BDO World Championship starts on 3 January, the day before the PDC final.

Sadness, yes. But no regrets.

"I love the tournament and I love the venue, but I've moved on," he said.

"I'm in the PDC and the Alexandra Palace is where I'm going to ply my trade. I've just got to get used to that venue and hopefully I can pick up that crown."

Stephen Bunting
Stephen Bunting has risen to 28th in the PDC's Order of Merit ahead of the World Championship

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