Column #HR3 The Premier League Final
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
The Premier League Final
“A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon” is the opening line of the poem by Robert Service titled “The Shooting of Dan McGrew.” Fast forward to May 23, 2010 and the Wembley Arena where a bunch of darts fans were ready to whoop it up for the 2010 Premier League Finals. Funny thing happened – a power outage delayed the event 24 hour’s. That held the crowd to only 2,000 which doesn’t include a nationwide TV audience. Next door at Wembley Stadium England was laying a 3-1 “green card check” on Mexico in a friendly prior to soccer’s World Cup coming in June. When things got going in the Arena “The Power” got going full blast.
As is the scenario for most heavyweight title fights the “prelims” were interesting as they set the table for the final. Last year Mervyn King did the business by eliminating Phil Taylor to reach the finals. This time around Taylor open with a 13-darter and won 5 on the trot while never looking back for an 8-1 win. Taylor averaged 107.98 over 9 legs which allowed King only 4 darts at a finish. As can be expected Taylor was “over the moon that I’m back in the final.”
James Wade found himself in the final for the second year in a row. He was the defending champion rallying on the last night of league play to secure the third play-off spot. Simon Whitlock held the second spot in the final standings mainly on the strength of his ability to score a high percentage of doubles which win games. “Score for show… double of dough.” Whitlock missed 6 darts in the opening two legs which Wade capitalized on for a 2-0 lead. The “portsider” Wade would extend that lead to 4-1 before Whitlock “got it together” to level at 4 aided by a couple of missed bull finishes by Wade. Whitlock took a 5-4 lead and was waiting at the double when Wade took 107 out to level the game once again at 5. The two traded legs for another level at 6. It was then d8 and d5 for Wade to reach the finals.
Mervyn King would bounce back from his 8-1 shellacking at the hands of Taylor to take the 3rd/4th place game by an 8-6 score over Simon Whitlock. King had to come from 6-5 down taking three legs on the trot to secure the £50,000 prize while Whitlock would be compensated with a check for £40,000. At 7-5 down King busted 16 by hitting a d11 but Whitlock couldn’t convert. Given a second chance King nailed the double 8 for 7-6. King used his second 180 of the match on the way to win the decider.
THE MAIN EVENT
This was Ali-Frazier, Arsenal-Tottenham, Yankees-Red Sox, Cal-Stanford, left-right, ketchup-mayonnaise, Bristow-Lowe or any other “all time great battle “that comes to mind. Phil “The Power” Taylor put on a show that even his greatest admirers would never have envisioned. He was “over the moon.” This though was not a performance against a willing opponent ready to lay down or rollover. James Wade was the defending Premiere League champion who opened the final with a nifty 12 darter. If that unnerved Taylor he didn’t blink or show it. How about a 9-darter comprised of 174 (t20, t19, t19), 180, and 147 out! Thank you very much. Taylor followed that with 110 finish of 20, bull, d20. The pair would then trade 15-darter’s before Taylor crafted a 11 dart leg to break for a 4-2 lead.
Playing a little “monkey see-monkey do” they swapped 14 dart legs with Taylor maintaining a 2 leg lead at 5-3. Proving he was mortal Taylor moved up by three with a 16 dart leg which was the worst of the night by anyone in any match. Wade inched back using 12 darts with a 121 bull finish though he still trailed 6-4. That was followed with a Taylor 11-darter to regain a 3 leg lead 7-4. That’s when “Old Mo” changed dart shirts as Wade took legs 12 and 13 to move within 1. In the 13th leg Taylor would miss both a bull finish and d8. The 14th leg would also go in the Wade column when after the two traded 180’s Wade nailed d20 for the win and a 7-7 score in the race to 10.
If Taylor was “rattled” by the Wade comeback he didn’t show it producing the second nine-darter of the evening. 180-180-141 – good bye! Never in the history of darts had a player had two 9-dart games in the same match on television let alone in the final.
Up 8-7 Taylor darn near had another 9-darter in leg 16 as he started 174-180 but missed his 8th dart at t17, although he did execute the d8 for a 10- darter. Up 9-7 Taylor missed three at tops which allowed Wade to finish 64 with tops to get to 9-8. No one ever called Taylor “The Shark” maybe because unlike golfer Greg Norman called the “Great White Shark” he doesn’t choke in the clutch. He smelled “blood in the water” and another title. Taylor opened what would be the final leg with his 10th maximum of the game then finished 88 with d14 for game, set, match, and the championship. Not to mention £125,000 in folding green.
Playing the final Taylor achieved an average of 111.67 which is more than the combined IQ of the Old Dart Coach’s dart team. Philip Douglas Taylor is simply playing a different game than mortals. He rises to the occasion not with temper tantrums, expletive deleteds, or another “pint of lager.” In the words of Emeril Lagasse, he “kicks it up a notch.” “I’m a very proud man. I’ve won every title in the PDC and I don’t think I can ever do better than this – it’s the proudest day of my life. Everything I’ve done for the last 30 years has all come together. It’s been my dream to do this.”
James Wade played well enough to win averaging 100.08 but not on this night. £65,000 pounds sterling should provide some solace to Wade who always puts a positive spin on events. “It was an incredible game and in a way it’s a compliment that Phil hit two nine-darters to beat me. The score was 10-8 so those two legs were the difference.” Well maybe not as who’s to say that a 10-11 or 12-darter wouldn’t have won on this night. If Robert Service were alive, which he isn’t, he might like to write of the night calling his efforts “The Night Phil Shot 2.”