Paul Nicholson led the MODUS charge in Wigan by reaching the final of the third Players Championship event of the year on Saturday.
Premier League star Robert Thornton also enjoyed a good run before bowing out at the semi-final stage at Robin Park Tennis Centre.
Both were denied potential glory by eventual winner Jamie Caven.
Nicholson won through to his second Pro Tour final of the year, kicking off with wins against promising youngster Chris Aubrey and Germany’s Jerry Hendriks.
The Australian ace then swept past three experienced opponents in Steve Beaton, Mervyn King and Mark Walsh, before defeating Michael Mansell to reach the last four.
There, he recorded an impressive victory over world number ten Justin Pipe but was edged out by Caven in the final.
Thornton began his campaign for a third title in Wigan this year with early successes against Jason Marriot, Darron Brown and Darren Webster.
The Scotsman defeated Andy Smith to reach the quarter-finals, where he saw off the great Dennis Priestley.
Thornton, who was denied a final spot by Caven, will be looking to continue his strong form on Sunday as he bids to grace the top ten in the PDC Order of Merit for the first time.
By Chris Murphy
Michael van Gerwen topped the Order of Merit after winning five of the eight ranked Speedy Services UK Open qualifiers, as fellow Premier League stars James Wade, Robert Thornton, Simon Whitlock and Raymond van Barneveld all booked their places at the Bolton tournament.
van Gerwen won the final event of the 2013 series on Sunday, when the field of qualifiers for June’s finals were confirmed.
As one of the top 32 in the final Order of Merit, ‘Mighty Mike’ gains automatic entry to the third round on Friday June 7 along with reigning champion Thornton, Whitlock, van Barneveld, Paul Nicholson and Mark Webster.
Andy Jenkins qualified for the second round on Thursday June 6 as he collected £1,800 in prize money and returned to the top 64 in the world rankings.
Joining ‘Rocky’ in round two are Co Stompe, John Henderson and Arron Monk, while Wade, Chris Aubrey, Vincent van der Voort and James Hubbard all also qualified for the tournament and will compete in the first round on the Thursday.
van Gerwen added Saturday’s title to the two he had previously won last month, before Thornton stopped his rampant run on Sunday and took the honours himself.
‘Mighty Mike’ saw off Michael Smith in Saturday’s final to clinch the £6,000 first prize after he had narrowly missed double twelve to nail a nine-dart-finish in an earlier round.
“It’s always nice to win a tournament like this and I’m delighted,” van Gerwen told PDC.tv
“I know I’m playing well and I’ve shown everyone again today.
“I was strong from the beginning but I played a lot of good players, like Simon Whitlock, Gary Anderson and Peter Wright. I’m full of confidence and I’m taking that into my games at the moment.”
The Dutch sensation looked set to continue is incredible run of success on the Pro Tour, having won UK Open qualifiers 1, 2 & 3 in addition to the final Players Championship event in 2012, before he ran into the brilliant Thornton in Sunday’s semi-finals.
Thornton, the reigning Speedy Services UK Open champion, claimed a 6-3 victory, before triumphing 6-4 against Jamie Caven in the final.
“I’m chuffed to bits to get the win,” said Thornton, who will be appearing alongside van Gerwen in the Portsmouth International Masters in June.
“It’s about time Michael let somebody else win!
“In all seriousness though it’s so tough now.
“The standard is incredible and it’s a proud day when you win one of these.
“It’s harder than winning your Premier League match on a Thursday night and in an odd way, playing in that tournament has prepared me for this!”
Both players will turn their attentions to night seven of the McCoy’s Premier League in Cardiff, where they are in action on Thursday.
There was also a strong showing from Paul Nicholson in both of the weekend’s events, with ‘The Asset’ reaching the quarter-finals on both days.
By Chris Murphy
Image courtesy of Lawrence Lustig/PDC