Column #324 America’s hopes ride on Big Daddy!
Thursday, July 3, 2008
America’s hopes ride on Big Daddy!
The story that could have been – that was already written in my head – almost was today. But in the end it was not to be.
It was the last match of the afternoon…
Briefly behind after the first leg and tied or leading all the way through the eighth, legendary Larry Butler saw his chance – to move on and potentially face Dennis Priestley – the other legend, who Butler disposed of at the 1994 World Matchplay – slip away.
Alan Tabern was the cause.
Ranked fifteenth in the world, Tabern broke Butler straight away leaving Butler on 155 but Butler broke right back, closing ninety-eight to even the match. The Bald Eagle then moved ahead before Tabern tied it again. Butler advanced to 3-2 but Tabern drew even yet again. Butler then notched up another leg but Tabern replied to bring it to four a piece.
In the ninth leg Butler had his chance but a sloppy dart gave Tabern the opening he needed and he moved ahead for the first time since the opener. Minutes later and looking at tops to force the decider, Butler could only watch as Tabern closed eighty-four to end the story that could have been.
As disappointing as this was, the first three matches, or at least the first two, were even more disappointing for the North American hopefuls.
In the first confrontation and in front of a much thinner crowd than the day before, world-ranked number six, Andy Hamilton, literally spanked Canada’s Shawn Brennaman. It was as simple as that. Brennaman managed only a leg.
As seems to be his way, Philadelphia’s Bill Davis started from a two leg deficit but valiantly fought back against Mark Walsh, undoubtedly scaring the CRAP out of the world-ranked number thirty. Davis evened the match at two and pounded his way dart for dart with Walsh, finding himself with a 5-3 lead AND the throw for the ninth leg.
But somehow, perhaps Davis can explain it, he began with two ones and a triple one for a score of five and in quick order Walsh pulled to within one and then held his throw to take the match to the decider. In the end, and with Davis looking at the same number, Walsh struck tops to end the Philadelphian’s hopes 6-5.
In the third match of the day and the third in a row featuring a North American, Canada’s methodical-throwing Gerry Convery ran smack into the speedy precision darts of Holland’s Jelle Klassen, and simply had no answer. In a flash the young Dutchman was off to a 3-0 lead. Convery seemed to find some comfort in the fourth, closing double eighteen – and then scored back-to-back maximums in the fifth. But the unflappable Klassen then took the leg, advancing the score line to 4-1, as Convery lost steam after missing the seventh dart needed to keep his perfect game alive. Moments later, in a match that lasted all of fifteen minutes Klassen walked off the stage a 6-1 victor.
In other action England’s Adrian “Jackpot” Lewis saw off Scotland’s Robert Thornton 6-5 in a barnburner of a contest. Down 5-4, Thornton required 116 to force the decider. He found the mark but it was Lewis with a double eighteen who moved into the second round.
Perhaps it was the kryptonite but whatever the reason for five times world champion and last year’s Desert Classic champion, Raymond van Barneveld today had a walk in the park. Matt “Superman” Clark (from Kent) had little to offer as he was dismantled, leg after leg, by the easy throwing Dutchman.
James Wade handled the unorthodox style of Dennis Smith in similar fashion. The world-ranked number three had no worries as he coasted to a 6-1 win.
Easily the best match of the day featured Peter “One Dart” Manley and Steve Maish. The world-ranked number eleven and thirty pounded each other back-and-forth to the crowd’s delight and although the 6-3 score line suggests a bit of a rout, it was only Manley’s precision finishing that told the difference. Two things are clear: 1) they don’t call Manley One Dart for nothin’ and 2) Maish is a damn serious force to be reckoned with down the road.
So with the first round now complete and round two to begin in the morning only Darin “Big Daddy” Young remains to carry the North American torch.
Young will toe-up against Mervyn King, who with an 89.29 average sent three times and current world champion, John Part, packing yesterday. Young averaged 83.22 to get past Martin Burchell.
So the Philadelphian has his work cut out for him…
And if (WHEN) he makes it to the quarter finals and beyond there is still the greatest obstacle of all, Phil “the Power” Taylor – whose average yesterday, unbelievably, was even higher than the temperature outside.
From the field,
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