Humphries is Darts Undisputed Leader

Luke the first long-term number one since MvG?

When Michael van Gerwen passed over the world number one spot to Gerwyn Price at the turn of 2021, a change at the top had been in the offing. MvG hadn’t seemed the same since losing to Peter Wright in the final at Alexandra Palace a year earlier. He switched manufacturers in the aftermath of that defeat and a masterful UK Open campaign two months later threatened a return to business-as-usual that never materialised. The rest of lockdown-ridden 2020/2021 was patchy and his aura of invincibility was fading. A vacuum was emerging in darts for a new leader to step into.

As the vacuum was appearing, Luke Humphries was fresh off the Development Tour. He wasn’t even in the conversation about who might fill the void and take over the Green Machine’s mantle as the undisputed best on planet darts.

In truth, nobody has really taken it over until now. Price and Wright jostled for a while without either looking like they were going to cement themselves for the long-term. Michael Smith then burst through the tape when winning the World Championship in 2023. With the greatest respect to each of these worthy number ones, they’ve all appeared as though they were clinging onto the crown in the shadow of MvG rather than tightening their grip on it. Something is different with Humphries though; there are a multitude of signs that he won’t be relinquishing the throne any time soon.  

While we celebrated darts’ new competitiveness and the fact there was no longer a clear favourite for any event, Cool Hand snuck up on us. For the first time in at least three years, we do again have an undisputed leader. Somewhat curiously, he’s been starting tournaments in 2024 as second or third favourite with MvG and Luke Littler above him in the betting. Following a decimation of the latest Euro Tour field to add to his healthy lead at the top of the Premier League and runs to the final of five of the last six TV majors (winning four), it’s unthinkable that he’s anything other than the man to beat. If there was a doubt before Munich, there can’t be now. Littler might be the one coveted by the tabloids but it is Humphries who is making strides ahead of his peers. It isn’t simply the titles either, it’s the numbers accompanying them.

To put this week’s brilliance into statistical perspective, his 107.51 winning tournament average in Germany has only been bettered once in Euro Tour history: van Gerwen at the height of his powers delivered 107.58 in picking up a title in 2018. That was a version of the Dutchman that some consider to be the finest exponent of the game the world has witnessed, or at least in a league only with Phil Taylor. Humphries has now matched the greatest of the great performances by MvG on the Euro Tour and not in an isolated game but over a whole tournament. How can he be regarded as a less likely winner of events than an inferior version of the MvG he has just emulated?

In his semi-final against Price, Humphries averaged 99, ending a run of fourteen straight 100+ averages on the Euro Tour. He has also notched up 18 averages over 105 on those stages since the start of 2022. That’s the same number as Price has managed, and one more than van Gerwen has managed, since 2019.

Even worse for his rivals, the numbers are improving. At this point last year, he was averaging just under 98. At the same point in 2024 he’s hovering between 101 and 102. In the Premier League he’s averaged 100+ in 15 out of 19 matches. These are the kinds of numbers that only van Gerwen and Taylor have produced before him.

The comparisons with darts’ two greatest players of the last thirty years don’t end there. Humphries added his name to that exclusive club in winning three TV ranking titles in the same year at the back end of 2023 and his average in the World Championship final is the highest of anybody over a match of that many legs. His semi-final demolition of Scott Williams was the second highest winning average in a World Championship semi-final behind MvG’s legendary crushing of Raymond van Barneveld in 2017.

After Munich, Humphries holds an FDI rating of 1969 – higher than peak Gary Anderson. FDI is more than a measure of raw numbers, it assesses dominance relative to opponents and accounts for the respective standard of those opponents. The 1969 rating places him fourth on the all-time list with 2004 Raymond van Barneveld the next in line for him to overtake so he can stand alongside only Taylor and van Gerwen on yet another measure.

The headlines may be about Littler, but it is the other Luke who continues to plant his roots at the summit. Whether anybody can hold onto top spot for the durations of the previous two kings remains to be seen and it is arguably a tougher ask than in any other era. Expect Humphries to be there for some time though – this isn’t another fleeting number one keeping the throne warm. Humphries will take some toppling.

Editorial Staff

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