Column #HR24 “Double, double, toil and trouble”

Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Column HR24
“Double, double, toil and trouble”

Prior to the £350,000 Bodog.com World Grand Prix at the Citywest Hotel in Dublin the PDC took advantage of the facilities for a pair of £31,600 Irish Players Championships. The Championships drew 100 players with the news being the two who didn’t enter. That would be Phil Taylor and Raymond van Barneveld who took a “Pasadena.” In the case of Barney it may be his desire to save his “bad back” for the rigors of the Grand Prix. The ODC use to avoid the rigors of double/double and multi-set play by losing early. That’s probably not a Barney plan. Phil Taylor passed because… well he’s Phil Taylor.

It’s fashionable to call an event just prior to a major a “tune-up.” Saturday’s winner Simon Whitlock needs no tune up. Whitlock had his problems with three of his matches going the full 11 including his semi against Justin Pipe. The final against Dennis “The Timex” Priestly was a 6-1 romp. Whitlock couldn’t resist leveling a gentle Aussie jab after the match. “Dennis is a great competitor – I hope I’m playing as well as him when I reach 60!” Translation? “For an old geezer he plays good mate.” The comment may have been a little pay back as Priestly defeated Whitlock at the Australian Open Players Championship.

The “Rocket” Ronnie Baxter missed a pair of darts for a win on Sunday as Jamie Caven prevailed 6-5. Caven would hit double tops for his second championship of the year. Baxter with a semi and a final had the best combined finishes of any players “Toeing the Oche” in the Grand Prix. That of course means nada, zilch and zero. Will this event for a warm-up lead to an outstanding Grand Prix? Well as found in the words of Shakespeare this column will “lead on Macduff” in search of an answer. The ODC, a Shakespearean scholar, wants it known that the original quote was “Lay on, Macduff, And damn’d be him that first cries, ‘Hold, enough!'” spoken by Macbeth. That quote comes from Act #5, Scene 8. Following that Macduff killed him. Should have, wordy bastard he.

DOUBLE, DOUBLE TOIL AND TROUBLE

To hear all the caterwauling from the pundits you would have though that running a £350,000 tournament with double start and finish was the end of the world. Climb Mt. Everest? No problem. Swim the Atlantic Ocean with your hands tied behind you? Piece of cake. Play a darts tournament with double start and double finish? “NO. NO. That’s inhumane. How will we survive?” One would almost expect for Sky Sports or Justin TV, if you’re watching on a computer, to add a warning “Dangerous sport. Watch at your own risk.” What a complete load of rubbish. Man up you whining wimps. One would almost expected Sid Waddell to quote from Shakespeare at the start of the telecast. How about a quote from Macbeth Act #4, Scene 1? “Double, double, toil and trouble.”

If the first day of play of this year’s World Grand Prix proved anything it was that all the hullabaloo about double start was bologna. There was not a single match decided because someone couldn’t get started. Those who did have a problem still had darts at a finishing double. One commentator, Rod Harrington, said, “I hated the double start tournaments. I always did good once I got through the first round.” “Oh really,” replied the Old Dart Coach in front of his computer. “How many North American Opens did you win?” (For years that was the premier double start tournament.) Here’s a clue. None. Zero, zip, nada. Eric Bristow and John Lowe won pockets full. So let’s put this double start foolishness to rest by remembering Bill Shakespeare’s play titled “Much to do about Nothing.” The ODC had a part in his 7th grade production of a scene from that play. “Douse thou believe Orlando that the boy can do all that he hath promised.” The Old Vic never called so the dart world didn’t loose an icon.

“It’s a very good start for me and I’m pleased to get the win. Brendan was a little bit nervous and it wasn’t as easy as it looked.” Those were the words of Phil Taylor after he opened a can of “WP Extra Strength” on Brendan Dolan 2-0 (3-0, 3-0). That whitewash occurred despite the fact that Dolan started one leg with a 160 off. Dolan can say, “I never missed a double to finish against Taylor.” The flip side is he never got to one as Taylor averaged 102, the best of the tournament. Next up for Taylor is Andy “The Pie Man” Smith who played with a hole in his leg after a botched hospital operation. Doesn’t speak too highly for England’s national healthcare. Smith got steamrolled by Jamie Caven in the first set 3-1. Smith dominated the second by the same score. Tied at 2 in the decider Caven missed double finishes when Smith took out 120 for the win.

Would Sunday’s Championship final prove to be a negative or positive for Ronnie Baxter? Here’s a clue: Baxter joins Jaime Caven on the “you’re out of here” list. Baxter, who missed doubles to win on Sunday, repeated that scenario just 24 hour’s later. The recipient this time of Baxter’s missed doubles was Scot Gary Anderson. Baxter took the first set 3-2 with the help of a 130-out against the throw while Anderson waited on a double. The second set was all Baxter as he led 2-0 then missed double top for the set. Anderson then ran off 6 winning legs from 7th for the second and third set. “It was a game of two halves,” admitted Anderson. “He missed three darts to win the match and my luck changes, but I don’t know how I won it.” Here’s a clue: In the deciding set Anderson had starts of 160 and 123.

Kevin Painter, like his opponent Gary Anderson in the next round, overcame a loss in the first set (2-3) to defeat Mark Dudbridge 2-1. With Painter up 2-1 in the third set Dudbridge landed five perfect darts in opening with scores of 157 and 140. Dudbridge missed double top to level. Painter didn’t nailing tops for the set and match. The battle of the Steve’s, Farmer-Brown both first timers, provided one of the most intelligent comments by an expert commentator. The “Chatter Guy” asked “Why does Steven Brown start on double 14?” Eric Bristow in a brilliant display of dart intelligence answered, “Because he can hit it.” His 2-1 (3-2, 2-3, 3-1) win sets up a match against Wayne Jones in the next round. Jones eliminated Mervyn King, the number 4 seed, by the same 2-1 score.

The “real” Adrian Lewis was on full display when he knocked out a very nervous Alan Tabern 2-1 in a match that wasn’t that close. The real Adrian Lewis is like the little girl. “When he’s good he’s very-very good. When he’s bad he’s horrid.” The commentator chose the words “disinterested” but “horrid” fits. Tabern took the opening set 3-1. Then the “real good” Lewis showed up winning the next two sets 3-0. He’ll have to be engaged from the first dart when he meets Terry Jenkins in the next round. Jenkins stopped fast throwing Vincent van der Voort 2-0. Van der Voot, the Dutch Star, was suffering from a bad back which seems to be common ailment with Dutch Players. Could it be from window shopping in the land of wooden shoes?

DAY DOS

There’s the possibility that players not in action on day one watched the action on TV. Day two was hit with a plethora of “professional players” approaching the staring double like taking castor oil before running a marathon. While Co Stompe was on his way to a 2-1 (2-3, 3-0, 1-3) loss to Colin Osborne he missed “yoodles of doubles”… at one point Stompe missed 15 darts at double tops to start which prompted Eric Bristow to say “How many times does he have to miss double tops to know he’s not very good at it?” This match also included a really UGLY leg where Stompe needed 10 darts to start and Osborne need 9 to hit a finish double. James Wade, a 2-nil (3-1, 3-1) winner over Mick McGowan has got to be licking his lips awaiting Osborne in the next round. Wade hardly broke a sweat.

While Wade was good Raymond van Barneveld who had not played competitively for two months showed no sign of “oche rust.” Cool as the pints, both full and empty that adorned the tables of the venue like the finest Irish Linen Tablecloth, Barney dispatched 69-year old Irish favorite John McGowan 2-0 (3-0, 3-1). The match was actually a little closer than the score might indicate as McGowan missed “bull” twice for legs. Barney will get Mark Walsh who strolled to a 2-0 (3-0, 3-2) over a Denis “The Heat” Ovens who never warmed up. The second set was close only because Walsh came out of the break sluggish. First match of the tournament without a 180.

Sid Waddell described Andy Hamilton as “King Henry the VIII with a few extra capons and no beheading of the misses.” King Hank served as King of England from 1509-1547. He was also the King of Ireland for whatever that’s worth. Hamilton, not King Hank, dispatched crowd favorite Dennis Priestly 2-0 (3-1, 3-2) on the strength of some great darts and Priestley’s failure to start. Hamilton won the first set with 152- in-135, 138, then finished in 13. In the second set Priestley missed his first 6 darts at a start. When the 7th hit he raised his arms “Rocky-like” to the roar of the crowd. Priestley though on this night in Dublin was no Rocky. Tied at 2 Hamilton arrived at 170 which he missed but, with Priestley unable to pressure, Hamilton converted for the win. While Hamilton missed the 170-out his opponent in round two, Simon Whitlock, nailed it to capture a 2-0 (3-1, 3-1) win over Paul Nicholson. Whitlock missed a 164 when he hit the little bull instead of the big guy. The steely eyed Whitlock operated like a surgeon with precise thrusts that eviscerated Nicholson. The two legs not sewed up by Whitlock were the first of each set. Nicholson’s second set win was a beauty with 160-on, 123, 180 and double 19 for an 11-darter.

Wes Newton seemed to revel in the double start as he laid a whipping on Colin Lloyd 2-0 while dropping but a single leg. Only once did Newton fail to get off. “I play double-start in a local league back home and that probably helps me, but the key thing is to get in and I did that. I took my chances and I’m happy to be through to the next round.” Barrie Bates will be the opponent for Newton in the next round. Bates had his way with youngster William O’Connor 2-0 (3-1, 3-0). Like Newton, Bates would drop but a single leg while punishing missed finishing doubles.

The commentator theme on day two was “This short format is difficult.” While watching the Old Dart Coach was shedding buckets of tears for the pro’s for being forced to play in a tournament that pays out £350,000 with Phil Taylor (the winner) getting £100,000. At one point Eric Bristow wondered as player after player messed up set darts for doubles: “These guys are pro’s?” The format now moves to 5 sets best of 3 so it will be interesting to see what the commentators whine about. They’ll find something.

One last Sid Waddell line. His broadcast mate mentioned that one of English’s top cricketers “was watching at home with his feet up.” “About right,” Waddell replied. They have it easy. Darters are athletes.”

Sid can talk with his tongue firmly planted in his cheek.

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Howie Reed
The one and only Howie Reed (the Old Dart Coach) goes back decades with the legends of our sport - he knows where the skeletons are buried. Just ask any of the ADO and WDF old-timers! His widely popular column, Toeing the Oche, is a must-read.

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