Phil Taylor wins Premier League final
Phil Taylor won the final of the Premier League at The O2 Arena in London with a 10-7 victory over Simon Whitlock.
But the man who had dominated the competition since almost the first throw was made to work for a sixth title when Whitlock won five legs in a row to level the match at 7-7.
Whitlock began his semi-final against Andy Hamilton as if he was keen to make a statement and then had to prove the doubters wrong.
Whitlock produced a nine-dart finish – the 29th to be televised - in only the second leg but Hamilton just shrugged that off and went 4-1 up. Then thoughts went back to the World Matchplay last year, when Whitlock was a leg away from the semi-finals and leading 15-8.
Hamilton won that 17-15 and it took Whitlock a while to recover. Now he only had four legs but he clawed his way back to level at 6-6 before taking the lead for the first time at 7-6, and took the next to erase the memory of his semi-final defeat in 2010.
Taylor had been the overwhelming favourite going into the second semi-final against James Wade, but the Machine opened up with an 87 finish and went 4-2 up at the break. That came when Taylor managed just 30 in the sixth leg and Wade pounced by hitting a 180 to leave 81 after nine darts, and eventually landed double five to break throw.
Breaking the throw was one thing but breaking Taylor was something else and he got back on terms at 4-4 before going 6-4 in the 10th leg. This was the point when Wade might have cracked but, to his credit, he got back on terms which included an 11th leg in which Taylor opened with a 180, but Wade matched the maximum, and although missing double 12 for a 125 checkout returned for a 14-darter.
Taylor was not playing at his best but reached into the magician’s bag of tricks and pulled out a superb 149 checkout to win the 13th leg and finished the job with an 80 checkout on double top.
The 15-times world champion looked like a man who had got out of jail – with only his third sub-100 average of the tournament - but with Whitlock looking to throw him back in.
But Whitlock – who was attempting to win his first major title - missed four chances to break the throw in the opening leg and then Taylor showed the Australian how it was done, to take the second leg on double eight. He missed a bullseye checkout and did so again in the third leg – when attempting 161- but still won it on double eight.
Taylor, who was averaging 90, was off the mark in the fourth leg, which Whitlock took with a 96 finish but the Power laid down a 180 and a 140 in the next leg to take a 4-1 lead on double top. Whitlock needed something, anything, and had his chance in the sixth leg. He did not take it and Taylor went 5-1 up at the interval with an 89 checkout in which he nailed the bullseye.
Taylor then went 6-1 up with a 109 checkout on tops in the seventh leg and Whitlock was looking like a boxer who had been hit by a punch that he never saw coming and, with his opponent on the ropes, Taylor was pummelling him.
Whitlock, who had been a wildcard, won the eighth leg but he did not seem to have much conviction behind his attempt to gee-up the 10,000 crowd. Whitlock is a confidence player and that took another knock when Taylor won the ninth leg but he scrambled his way to the 10th leg and he then broke the Power’s throw for the first time in the 11th leg for 4-7. A maximum, his third of the match, at the start of the 12th leg gave Whitlock more hope which he converted into his third leg on the spin going into the second interval at 5-7.
Whitlock, who had averaged 106 in the middle session, took the 13th leg when Taylor missed double 10 and then five and he drew level with a 120 checkout to win a fifth leg in succession. Taylor had gone from nervous, to concerned to worried – which could have been petrified when Whitlock just missed out on a 149 checkout.
He missed double 16 and Taylor went out on tops to halt the steamroller than had been threatening to flatten him. He was still hitting five more often than he had all through the Premier League but a 96 checkout put Taylor 9-7.
He began the 17th leg with a maximum, only his fourth of the two matches, but it came at the right time as he finished with a 73 on double eight.
Follow us on Facebook here
Follow our Bettordarts updates on twitter
Whether Scott Waites will win as many world titles as Phil Taylor may not be a matter for debate if only because it is hard to believe anyone matching the Power.
Scott Waites will play Tony O'Shea in the final of the BDO world Championship at the Lakeside Country Club.
The BDO world championship might be the poor relation in the world of darts but it is fashioning a Cinderella story this year.