Column #HR180 Unibet 2016 World Grand Prix

Tuesday, October 11, 2016
Column HR180
Unibet 2016 World Grand Prix

Just finished watching the £400,000 Unibet 2016 World Grand Prix… (Yes, “prix” is pronounced pre, not as the reader might imagine su padre pronounces it. “Bad Padre.”)

There were sellout crowds at the CityWest Resort/Hotel in Dublin, Ireland. Watching on the telly, the Old Dart Coach joined in when the predominately Irish crowd raised their voices singing,

Hey, hey hey baby…

Iwant to know if you’ll be my girl…

Hey, hey hey baby…

I want to know if you’ll be my girl.

Ben Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!” It’s a quote often used by America’s radio financial advisor Dave Ramsey. Some, who wouldn’t know Ben Franklin from Franklin in the Peanuts comic strip, “planned to fail” with their constant whining about the double start of the tournament. None more propionate than Philip Douglas Taylor.

Placing that story in the “stay tuned file”…

“Marvelous” Michael van Gerwen won his 21st tournament of the year with a convincing 5-2 (3-0, 3-1, 3-1, 0-3, 3-2, 0-3, 3-1) set win over Gary Anderson. Up 4-2, the “Fat Lady had cleared her throat, licked her lips, and was ready to sing” – although probably not Hey Baby. More like The Party’s Over. She did her thing following van Gerwen’s final leg win which he sealed the deal with 160-check.

The win, van Gerwen’s third Grand Prix title, was worth £100,000. Since September, van Gerwen has won almost £230,000 which in real money is $286,000 and (a meaningless) $5.

In legs, van Gerwen won the match 15-11. He out-averaged Anderson by 10. They had the same check out rate of 42%. The difference. The dreaded starting double. Van Gerwen was 26 for 45 a clip of 58% while Anderson could only manage 26 from 68 for 38%.

“Just as a player has troubles with scoring or finishing, Anderson had troubles starting,” states Caption Oblivious. The question is, “was Anderson’s starting double trouble the norm or an aberration?” The ODC looked at first round matches, quarter-finals, and semi-final matches to figure the percentage for starting doubles. First round – 43.76%. Quarter-finals – 49.17%. And semi-finals – 49.24%.

The form book on Anderson has always been his doubles. For the tournament, he was up and down with starting percentages of 64%, 37%, 55%, 64%, and the final at 38%. With those figures in mind, one must ask, “Was there a choke factor ?”

“Figures don’t lie but liar’s figure,” came from the pen of one Samuel Langhorne Clemens aka Mark Twain. With that in mind, Anderson had a bad day starting (DUH) and van Gerwen’s day was exceptional – but then he is exceptional.

Back to Philip Douglas Taylor. The PDC blared, “WEST CUTS THE POWER IN UNIBET WORLD GRAND PRIX.” The West is Steve West and the Power, of course, is Philip Douglas Taylor. After losing the first set (3-1), West came back to take the next two for a 2-1 win. Was it the “dreaded starting double what got Taylor?” NO. Taylor had a higher average, more T80’s, way better starting doubles (50% to 25%) – but couldn’t close the deal. He was a miserable 6 for 25. So it wasn’t the dreaded starting double “what got him.”

Taylor has exited from the Grand Prix in the first round four times – to Kevin Painter (2001), Andy Callaby (2004), Adrian Gray (2007), and Vincent van der Voort (2015).

Steve West became a favorite of the ODC for a couple of reasons, none of them involving Phil Taylor. The ODC gets the “RA” with phony nicknames. It ranks right behind phony “man hugs.” Warming up, West’s shirt proudly announced his nickname: “Simply” Steve West.

“Right on!”

Most dart interviews have all the interest of cold oatmeal. But there are exceptions. In his post-match interview, when asked about the reason for his win, West said, “Well I have a new girl.” Just proves that a good woman can make a difference. Asked what he was going to do next, West answered, “I want a good drink.” Good on ya, Steve.

Gary Anderson’s interview (if you can figure out what the heck the Flying Scott is saying) is another good example. Having shared a few pints with the late Jocky Wilson, the ODC sometimes can interpret “Scot Speak.” Anderson was being interviewed prior to his semi-final match against Raymond van Barneveld, which he won handily 4-1. He was asked about his 3-1 win in the quarters against Kim Huybrechts where he came from 1-nil down…

“I had trouble with the starting and finishing doubles, and in between, I couldn’t score but besides that everything was fine. “

Often darts is equated to golf. There are many similarities. There was a time when due to improved equipment and practice techniques, golf became “too easy.” Golf realized that something had to be done. So course designs were changed, making them more difficult to play. This put a higher emphasis on good play. As scores decreased the professional game became more competitive and TV ratings soared.

As the wires on the dart boards have become less and less obstructive and dart manufacturing has become more scientific now’s the time to do some tweaking. Throwing while standing on one’s head and juggling bowling pins is not an option, although it would be entertaining. Maybe throw from 10 or 12 feet, blindfolded or some combination thereof.

But how about make all tournaments double start?

This would increase suspense in a game that has frequently become boring. In golf when a player misses a short putt, the commentator has more excuses than a Secretary of State for using a private server. In darts when a finishing double is missed it’s usually “Unlucky.” The truth is that in each case the player choked. You’ll never hear a golf or darts commentator use the term “choke.”

There’s one exception in darts. John Part. In this world of full disclosure, the record must show that the ODC is a friend of John Part. Part thinks that, “For the finishing and ins I think they should, in addition to the pure stats, give stats based on a per visit basis. This would really help us in singling out the chokers and give them their due.” He speaks of the unthinkable. A PDC darter choking. Be still my heart.

As the ODC ages gracefully it’s the simple pleasures that provide pure joy. On his usual Tuesday visit to Popeye’s he was asked,

“How may I help you?”

“Two Tuesday specials, spicy, to go – and the senior discount?”

“I’ll need to see some ID to see if you qualify for the senior discount.”

At that very moment, the ODC wanted to jump over the counter, sing Hey Baby, and place a lip lock on this wonderful person. But alas it was a guy. Plan aborted.

Stay thirsty my friends.

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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.