Chris Dobey insists there is “no pressure” on him as he begins his Masters title defence on Friday.
The 33-year-old beat former World Champion Rob Cross 11-7 in last year’s final to claim his first major PDC crown in Milton Keynes.
Dobey remains “confident” going into the tournament, where he will face UK Open winner Andrew Gilding in the first round with a second-round tie against Michael van Gerwen at stake.
“I feel great, practice has gone well. I’m confident, so I’m hoping for another good tournament,” Dobey told the PA news agency.
“Everybody’s there for a reason, everybody knows how good everybody is in the competition, so there’s no pressure on me.
“I’ve got to go there, do what I do best and hopefully continue the form from the World Championships.”
Dobey comes into the Masters having endured a disappointing end to his World Championship hopes at the start of January where he was beaten 5-4 by Cross in the quarter-finals.
He had looked set to reach the semi-finals after taking a 4-0 lead, but Cross staged a memorable comeback to snatch victory.
“It’s still a hard one to take. Obviously I keep saying I should never have lost that, but I didn’t really do much different from 4-0 up to losing 5-4, I stayed at that same level,” Dobey said.
“I’ve put that in the past now, it’s all about this year and moving forward and hopefully I can get off to a good start from that defeat.”
Victory in that match would have set up a semi-final meeting between Dobey’s stable mate and teenage sensation Luke Littler.
Littler, who turned 17 this month, made headlines after reaching the World Championship final on debut and has since earned his first piece of silverware at the Bahrain Masters.
His incredible rise comes as no surprise to Dobey, who believes Littler has put “eyes back on the darts”.
“Obviously with me, Nathan (Aspinall) and Luke being in the same stable you look at their draws, we’ve got a group chat to see what we think. I looked at Luke’s side of the draw (at Alexandra Palace) and thought it was a more favourable side of the draw.
“Then a couple of the big names went out on his side, which he’s got to take advantage of, and he did that for sure.
“He played a great tournament, fantastic. I think he was unlucky not to go 5-2 up in the final, he was millimetres away from the double two.
“I was disappointed not to play him in the semi-final because we said a couple of days prior to our quarter-finals, ‘keep doing what we’re doing and we’ll play each other in the semi-final and hopefully it guarantees one of us in the final’.
“It just wasn’t to be, but the lad went on to do well and he’s made a name for himself. He’s changed the world of darts again and all eyes are back on the darts.”
Meanwhile, Gerwyn Price has pulled out of the Masters due to family reasons.
Daryl Gurney will replace the Welshman at the Marshall Arena.