PHIL TAYLOR and Michael van Gerwen began the Cash Converters Players Championship Finals with victories at the Butlins Minehead Resort on Friday, as Andy Hamilton produced a remarkable comeback from 5-1 down to win 6-5 against John Part.
Reigning champion Taylor dropped only two legs as he moved into the last 16 in Somerset with a comfortable 6-2 win over Paul Nicholson.
Taylor won the first two legs and then finished 101 to move 3-0 up, and after Nicholson got off the mark, a 121 bullseye checkout saw Taylor regain his cushion.
Nicholson landed double eight to win leg six, but Taylor scored 170 on his way to the next leg, which he won with a third-dart double 16, before punishing missed doubles from the 2010 champion to seal victory on double two.
Taylor now plays number three seed Peter Wright in the second round, after the Scot averaged 101 in a 6-2 win over World Youth Champion Michael Smith, who matched his opponent with four 180s but lacked consistency against the rising star.
Top seed Michael van Gerwen, meanwhile, lost only one leg in his victory over debutant Jamie Lewis, as he set up a mouth-watering second round meeting with world number three Adrian Lewis, who was a 6-3 winner against Kevin Painter.
Painter had won the first two legs of their game and also took out 126 on the bull to lead 3-1, but Lewis hit a ten-dart finish in a run of five straight legs as he powered to victory.
Andy Hamilton was another Stoke ace to win through to the second round, as he produced the greatest comeback on a day of fightbacks in Minehead, coming from 5-1 down to defeat John Part in a dramatic decider.
Part - the three-time World Champion who was wearing glasses on stage for the first time - missed 18 darts at doubles to win the match as Hamilton clawed back level with four straight legs, before the UK Open finalist followed a 180 with a stunning 158 checkout to snatch victory.
Hamilton now plays Northern Ireland's Brendan Dolan, who was another comeback winner, battling back from 3-1 down to win a deciding leg with Wayne Jones with a 126 bullseye checkout.
Somerset-based Gary Anderson came from 4-1 down to defeat Stuart Kellett in a decider, and he now plays Jelle Klaasen, the Dutch ace who knocked out number two seed Dave Chisnall 6-4, with the St Helens ace hitting six 180s and a ten-dart finish in defeat.
Former World Champion Steve Beaton hit back from 3-1 and 5-3 down to claim a narrow win over James Wade, hitting a 13-dart leg in the decider as he progressed to a second round clash with Wes Newton.
Newton, who became a father for the second time on Monday as he helped to deliver baby Zac at home in Fleetwood, found himself 2-0 down to Andy Smith before hitting a 106 finish to turn the contest in his favour, sparking a run of six successive legs as he swept to the win.
Taunton's Justin Pipe came from 4-1 down to win 6-4 against Simon Whitlock in a battle of last year's semi-finalists, and he now plays Derby's Jamie Caven, who took a 6-3 win over Colin Lloyd despite finding himself 3-2 behind at one stage.
Scotland's Robert Thornton averaged 104 in the day's most impressive display as he overcame Richie Burnett 6-3, setting up a tasty second round contest with Raymond van Barneveld, who edged out Mervyn King 6-5.
Terry Jenkins dumped 2012 runner-up Kim Huybrechts out of the tournament with a 6-2 victory over the Belgian, and he now plays Ian White, who was the first of four Stoke players to win on Friday as he opened the event with a 6-3 win against Ronnie Baxter.
The second round will be held across two sessions on Saturday, live on ITV4, with the quarter-finals on Sunday afternoon before the semi-finals and final are held on Sunday evening.
Cash Converters Players Championship Finals
Friday November 29
Ian White 6-3 Ronnie Baxter
Kim Huybrechts 2-6 Terry Jenkins
Wes Newton 6-2 Andy Smith
Gary Anderson 6-5 Stuart Kellett
Brendan Dolan 6-5 Wayne Jones
Jamie Caven 6-3 Colin Lloyd
Peter Wright 6-2 Michael Smith
Steve Beaton 6-5 James Wade
John Part 5-6 Andy Hamilton
Simon Whitlock 4-6 Justin Pipe
Robert Thornton 6-4 Richie Burnett
Mervyn King 5-6 Raymond van Barneveld
Adrian Lewis 6-3 Kevin Painter
Paul Nicholson 2-6 Phil Taylor
Michael van Gerwen 6-1 Jamie Lewis
Dave Chisnall 4-6 Jelle Klaasen
Saturday November 30
Afternoon Session (12.45pm)
Brendan Dolan v Andy Hamilton
Terry Jenkins v Ian White
Jamie Caven v Justin Pipe
Steve Beaton v Wes Newton
Best of 17 legs
Evening Session (7pm)
Jelle Klaasen v Gary Anderson
Robert Thornton v Raymond van Barneveld
Peter Wright v Phil Taylor
Michael van Gerwen v Adrian Lewis
Best of 17 legs