The Middlesbrough marksman’s world crowns were all won in the British Darts Organisation’s (BDO) version of the sport.
However, that is regarded as an inferior competition to the one staged by the Professional Darts Corporation at London’s Alexandra Palace, where Durrant will make his debut tomorrow evening.
In his maiden year on the PDC tour, Durrant will go into his second round tie with Australian Damon Heta having had a bye in the opening phase. He is seeded 27th which might seem like a comedown for a player accustomed to going into world championships as favourite and defending champion, but Durrant knows he is playing with the big boys now, on a totally different stage.
“For me, quite simply I have gone from the Championship to the Premier League,” said the 49-year-old, who has nine major BDO titles to his name.
Durrant feels there is “no comparison” in terms of quality, but perhaps the biggest difference is the size of crowds – and the rowdy atmosphere – attracted to PDC events.
Though most of the PDC’s bread and butter is at pro-tour level, played behind closed doors, Durrant has also experienced up to five-figure crowds at events such as the Premier League, where he was a one-off guest player and World Matchplay in Blackpool.
“I have played in all arenas now,” he says. “I remember winning a (BDO) World Darts Trophy in Preston in front of 29 people, but I’ve also played in Glasgow in front of 10,000. The biggest thing is the quality of the PDC and the professionalism they have.”
Previously, BDO rules stated if their reigning world champion attempted to win a PDC tour card through the rival governing body’s qualifying school he would have to hand back the £100,000 prize money. As a part-time professional that was a risk Durrant could not afford to take, but a change in leadership at the BDO led to the financial penalty being removed.
“It was more the fact the BDO changed their criteria than me deciding when to go,” admitted Durrant, who took the PDC plunge in January. It almost went horribly wrong as he survived three match darts from opponent Matthew Dennant before securing his coveted card at the final attempt.
“The year has gone absolutely fantastic, it is a real story in itself,” said Durrant of the 11 months since switching organisations. “When I went to Q (qualifying) School I was three darts away from being knocked out and I often think where would I be today – would I still be working and preparing for a BDO championship that might not be happening?
“I pinch myself at how things were changed by three darts – and he wired each one. I was standing behind him thinking ‘that’s in, that’s in, that’s in’.
“There’s also been a lot of scrutiny on me. When I first got my pro-tour card I could see players thinking ‘who is he – what are these three Lakeside titles?’ I feel now I have really settled in, I can’t wait for the worlds and for 2020.”
Alexandra Palace, a venue Durrant has never visited, will be a new experience. He planned to attend today’s sessions to get a feel for the atmosphere before taking the stage for the first time tomorrow.
“At the end of the day, you just pretend you are playing in your darts room at home,” he said. “That’s the secret, 80 per cent of the game of darts is mental. That’s why one day you can be a world-beater and the next you struggle to hit the big 20.
“You have got to be mentally strong to be a top-notch darts player and I think I have demonstrated over the years that I have got that in the locker.”
Heta beat Rowby-John Rodriguez in a first round tie on Tuesday and, though Durrant will go into the match as favourite, the event has been littered with shocks and he is expecting a tough encounter
The tournament began eight days ago so Durrant has had a long wait for his first match. If he comes through he will not play again until a week today, but he insisted the schedule has been “perfect”. He said: “I have been watching Sky and getting inspired by some of the games.
“I did a lot of exhibition work at the beginning of December and I won’t lie, I was tired. I did a lot of travelling and the 10-11 days I had at home has been invaluable.
“I have been back on my dart board, in my arena, just ironing out a few things I think I needed to work on so I can peak at the right time. I was delighted with the schedule.”
Durrant has not looked beyond his opening match. He added: “In the BDO days, I was quite bullish, I used to look at the draw and who I was going to play all the way through to the final, but the quality is so good here I would be a fool to look past Damon Heta.”