On Friday evening in Barnsley, Josh participated in the first two European Tour qualifiers of 2018.
The first qualifier was for the European Darts Open in Leverkusen. Josh was embroiled in a high-quality contest with Steve West, in the end, Josh was edged out 6-5 by West, but Payne produced darts of the highest quality as he averaged 103 in what was a strange sort of match. It proved to be all about timing, Payne wired a dart at the bull for a stunning 161 checkout, only for West for respond with a 111 finish for a 12-dart leg to break as he moved 5-4 up. Josh broke West straight back with a great leg to force a deciding leg.
In that deciding leg, Josh had left himself D12 after just 12 darts, but he wasn’t allowed a shot at it as West produced a 121 finish to edge Josh out.
In the second qualifying event for the German Darts Grand Prix in Munich, Josh took the positives from that defeat to West into the second qualifier as he produced a string of superb performances to qualify to ET2 in Munich.
On his way to qualifying for the event, Josh produced a sensational performance to see off Ben Burton (6-0) as the Kent-based star piled in a 105 average, Payne kicked off the contest in superb style as he fired in a sumptuous 148 finish in the very first leg in hat was a six-leg rampage from Payne.
In his final match to qualify, Payne faced Richard North. It was a very closely contested affair with Josh taking it 6-4 with an average of just over 93. But, the resilience shown from Payne was superb as he piled in a 13-dart leg to secure his place in the German Darts Grand Prix in Munich.
On Saturday & Sunday afternoon, Josh participated in the first two Players Championship events of 2018, of course Josh famously won a Players Championship event back in 2016 as he defeated James Wade in that great final. In the first event, Josh went on to reach the last 32 as Payne produced another great run of form as the World no.1 Michael van Gerwen was the only player to stop him.
In his opening match, Payne faced Dirk van Duijvenbode. It wasn’t a straight forward start though for Payne, he found himself 2-0 behind, but once again shown great mental strength to battle back as he won four legs on-the-spin to lead 4-2. The Dutchman did go on to level the match at 2-2, but Payne was still in a commanding position as he produced a captivating 148 finish to edge 5-4 ahead, After gaining more momentum, Josh sealed the deal as he piled in a solid 15-dart leg to complete a fantastic 6-4 victory.
In his last 64 match, Payne faced Peter Jacques. And, much like his first game, Josh found himself 2-0 behind. He battled back brilliantly (again) to secure another great victory. The Kent ace reeled off five legs in succession as he came back from 3-1 behind to see the match out. 4/6 of Josh’s winning legs were won in 15 darts or less.
In Josh’s board one final match, he took on the World no.1 Michael van Gerwen. In the end, Payne lost out 6-1, but the score-line didn’t really reflect how the match panned out. Payne averaged 121 in the opening leg, and did miss two darts at a double to break MVG’s throw. In leg two, Van Gerwen took out a sublime 148 finish. Overall, Josh played some splendid stuff as he averaged 97.5 to Van Gerwen’s 102. In the leg that Josh did win, he pulled out a sensational 11-dart leg as he took out 96. Over the last couple of events, Josh has really played some marvellous stuff, and his time will come. Josh is now into his sixth consecutive year on the tour as he is an established name on the circuit at just 24 years of age.
In the second event on Sunday afternoon, Josh was drawn against Simon Whitlock in the opening round, Josh didn’t get off to a great start as he found himself 5-0 down without playing badly, However, Payne fought back brilliantly as he won three legs on-the-spin as he reduced the deficit to 5-3, but the Aussie piled in an 11-dart leg to register the win. Josh did average 96.3, so it was far from a bad performance from the Kent star. Overall, It’s been a great weekend.