Column #HR50 World Matchplay – Quarters, Semis and Final!
Tuesday, July 26, 2011
World Matchplay – Quarters, Semis and Final!
As years advance what were once young darters grow older. Things change usually not for the best. As the late Jim McKay use to say “the thrill of victory” is replaced by “the agony of de-feet.” When young, a T80 or significant double would always bring about an adrenalin rush. A surge of excitement. In lady darters (that’s not an oxymoron) it was called the “eraser on a number #5 pencil” effect. For gents it was a “Sheryl Crow moment.” Another experience now missing was ordering that first beer and having it served so cold that tears came to your eyes.
For the ODC this past Friday, Saturday and Sunday was a trip back to the past. He experienced all these emotions, many times, while watching the £400,000 Sky Bet Mobile World Matchplay. Not once. Not twice. Not trice.
Nay! As hard as it may be to believe the ODC had multiple experiences. Hello eHarmony.com – sign me up! For a man of his age “multiple experiences” is a remarkable feat even if achieved with the aid of modern medical science.
THE QUARTER FINALS
World Champion Adrian Lewis, coming from 1-4 down, had no trouble eliminating Mark Webster 16-12. They were level at 7 when Lewis built a 12-10 lead which sunk to12-11. Lewis took the next 4 of 5 for the win. While their scoring averages were comparable Webster’s check-out rate of 12 of 38 was not helpful.
In 28 meetings between James Wade and Raymond van Barneveld, Wade held a 15-13 advantage including last year’s semi which Barney won. Wade squandered the chance go up 3-1 with misses (5 at double tops) but still took 3 of the first 5 legs with the darts. After 10 legs Barney leveled at 5 by holding serve. James Wade got a one leg lead with an out that has to be added to your personal out chart. With 95, try Bull-15 and double 15. Keen. Wade up 8-7. Barney missed three from 32 to draw level and trailed 11-9. This one turned “sour” for Barney in leg 23.
Trailing 12-10 Barney had Wade buried to the point that Wade was throwing “practice darts” as he has want to do. At 126, Barney collected 57, fat 19 and then as close as you can get to a red bull (the object not the drink) without hitting it, leaving 25. Back at 227 Wade tossed up a Ton to get to 127. With 25 Barney hit the fat 9 and the double 11. That’s too much. At 127 Wade went 60-51 and double 8. 13-10 Wade. During the playing of the final leg Barney tossed a perfect dart in the triple 20 which wavered and then fell out. The look on Barney’s face read, “That figures.” Wade moves on…
There may have been greater matches in the history of darts but the ODC has never seen one than Simon Whitlock against Andy Hamilton. This will be remembered whenever darters gather to talk about darts. Andy Hamilton is a very unlikely candidate to play Cinderella. He would only be cast in the part if it called for a beer-keg-bodied-hair-challenged male. That was the part he played at the 2011 World Matchplay. He wasn’t even supposed to be there. He qualified only when good guy Dennis Smith failed to hold leads of 4-0 and 5-2 against Gary Anderson in the last PDC event in Holland. In a totally classless moment TV guy John Gwynne said of Dennis Smith as Hamilton was playing “When you’re up 4-0 and 5-2 you should win Dennis. Too bad but Andy isn’t sharing pal.” Dolt.
Any doubt that darts is sport (“sport writes stories that in fiction would be unbelievable”) was dispelled with an unbelievable comeback by Andy Hamilton against Simon Whitlock. The match started at 5:10 AM Las Vegas time. The ODC got up and suggested the following opening for Toeing the Oche that “Anyone who gets up at 5 AM on a Vegas Friday morning to watch darts needs to dial 1-800 Get-AF’IN-Life”.
When Simon Whitlock went up 15-8 up the ODC suggested that the Fat Lady wet her lips. Then, my goodness, it was Simon up 15-10, then 15-12, then 15-14. In retrospect (that means looking back), Whitlock missed 5 doubles during this Hamilton run. Hamilton would draw level at 15 with a 15 darter. Game on!
The 31st leg was pure beauty for Hamilton but flat ugly for Whitlock. “Beauty is in the eyes of the beer holder.” It was ugly for Hamilton as he missed 6 at a double for the win. A real beauty for Hamilton as he only missed 5 against the darts for his first lead at 16-15. In the 32nd leg with Hamilton up 16-15 Whitlock, against the darts, used T44-T-T80 to leave 87 while Hamilton wanted 94. Whitlock got the triple 17 but missed two at 36. Hamilton then put it away with 25-19-BULL. The 25 blocked the bull for Hamilton so he had to “sashay” the double bull. That double brought the ODC his first “Sheryl Crown tears in the eyes cold beer moment.”
Mark Webster failed to hold leads of 4-1 and 6-4 as World Champion Adrian Lewis, playing with his usual “casual manner,” came back for a 16-12 win. That, dart fans, brings us to Phil Taylor against Wes Newton…
No player had been better than Newton going into this match. Newton started like a man with his hair on fire taking a 4-1 lead which should have been 5-0 except for a missed bull. Old MO – for momentum – is a fickle old coot. There one minute then gone the next, like your latest only true love. No “Good bye” just a “You will understand.” But you never do.
That’s how Wes Newton has to feel after old “MO” jumped on the Taylor Power Train. MO is no dummy. Taylor went into the second set of 5 down 4-1. He came out of it up 6-4. First a 150-check (60-60-2×15). Then 128 (54-54-2×10). Then 136-45-140-140=40 and out. Then another 128 via 18-60-bull. Finally just an ordinary T25-58-T80-96 and out.
Yea Taylor’s finished. What did the blogs think of the third set of 5? “The third session was a bit dull… Wes was shell-shocked.” Another blogger answered, “Yes but it’s better than Phil Collins on ITV1… doing Motown… it’s like Winehouse doing opera.” Ms. Winehouse would assume room temperature later that day as Newton did on the spot. Taylor went 14-2 since losing the opening set of legs. For the match Taylor averaged 108.39 with a check out rate of 16/23.
THE SEMI FINALS
Would it surprise anyone that the star of the semi finals would be Andy “Cinderella Man” Hamilton? Phil Douglas Taylor would win but the buzz was Hamilton. The James Wade-Adrian Lewis match held some promise. Adrian Lewis’s strength is also his weakness, like the description of the little girl, “When he’s good he’s really good; when he’s bad he’s horrid.” On this day he was something in-between. Lewis missed doubles in the first two legs going down 2-nil. Wade would lead 3-2 at the break. Missed doubles would travel throughout this match for Lewis as he missed 17 from 41. Coming back from the break Lewis drew level at 3. Wade would take the next leg against the darts (180-41-T40-T=40 and out) for a 4-3 lead he would never relinquish. Wade, who shows little emotion, did use a “minor fist bump” when he took out 170 to go up 10-4. At 16-10 Wade placed the maraschino cherry on top of the sundae with T-T34-T40=127. That went away with 60-57 and “dead bovine.” Wade is brutally honest if nothing else; also there is no love lost between Wade and Lewis. “I play to win and I’ve done that, but there wasn’t much in front of me to beat and I was expecting more from Adrian, but he didn’t play like he can.” Lewis? “”James wasn’t brilliant.” He didn’t have to be. In any match you just have to be better than the guy you’re playing. “Funny old game.”
Against the darts, Phil Taylor took the first 2 legs in 13 darts each. Hamilton got a leg back when he tossed 144 to leave 40 which he took in one. This leg was by far the worst of the match as both players missed doubles. Down 3-1, with darts, Hamilton was sitting at 182 when Taylor left 80. Hamilton would toss a 150 to leave 32. Taylor hit the 60 but missed double 10 and the double 5 leaving same. Given a reprieve Hamilton hit the double 16 with one. Then came the break…
Taylor returned with 11, 12 and 13 darts. Hamilton broke the run with a nifty 121-check of 60-11-Bull. The 10th may have been the best combined leg of the match. With darts, Taylor tossed T37-T31-T35 to leave 97. Hamilton fired back with T35-T80-T40 to leave 46. Taylor managed a 57. Hamilton’s 14, missed double 16 and double 16 got the match to 6-4 at the second break. Taylor would average 122.84 and Hamilton 110.42 for the second five leg set.
Taylor went on one of his run’s opening a 9-5 lead. The TV guys were calling for Hamilton to accept the fact that he was “toast” at this point. With darts Hamilton took the next 3 to find himself only 9-8 down. A 14- and 15-darter by Taylor would extend the lead to 12-8, then 13-9. Taylor would then take 4 to win 17-9 which included a “nice” 127 with 60-11-Bull with Hamilton on 25. For “The Cinderella Man” the clock stuck 12 on one of the great feel good stories of the World Matchplay circa 2011.
Taylor is always a gentleman. During his run to the final he never disrespected an opponent by going for a “flashy” out when not necessary. He passed up bull finishes when they weren’t needed. On more than one occasion Taylor passed up the 170- finish after hitting a pair of triple 20’s for the fat 18 to leave 32. “Andy hit a lot of 180s at great times and he was superb. He didn’t give in and he made it a great game for the crowd too. I need to play better in the final. A few times against Andy I missed doubles and he punished me, and I’ve got to stamp that out in the final.”
Hamilton said, “I’ve got to pay credit to Phil because he was brilliant there.” A slight understatement by The Cinderella Man” whose darts, demeanor and guts silently spoke loudly.
It would be calling up one of those “Sheryl Crown” moments to write that the final of the £400,000 Sky Bet World Matchplay was a “Wing-Ding Doodle.”
But alas, it wasn’t…
Starting first, James Wade took the first leg with double tops while Taylor was sitting on 60. Taylor took leg #2 when he erased 135 (50-57-2×14) as Wade sat on 92. Wade took the third leg in 11 (97-T80-140=84, then 60 and 2×12) for a 2-1 lead. Taylor leveled at 2 in a sloppy fourth leg. Taylor took the lead in the 5th leg – one that started out like a barn burner. Taylor at 130 after 9 hit a pair of trip 20’s which opened up double 5 which Taylor missed. James wanted 75 but missed the green bull with 17. Another 17 left tops. Whoops missed to leave 20. One and double 2 gave Taylor the leg and his first lead at 3-2. Following the break for adverts, okay… here it comes: “Taylor turned the Power On.” Here’s comes Sheryl Crow time…
Taylor took the next 6 legs going up 9-2 with Wade getting only two darts at finishes. During that run Taylor had legs of T80-T37-T26=48 then 8-2×20, T37-T80-98=86 then 18-18-Bull with Wade on 32 and 84-T80-T37=100 then 60-20-2×10. Wade would gain a leg back, to 9-3, with a nifty 12-darter for 9-3. The “Power” wasn’t off – this was just a slight interruption.
It was “turned back on” with legs of 13 (T40-T41-T80 to leave 40), 13 (T40-45-T35-T65= 16), 13 (60-T41-140-137=24) and 13 (T36-T39-T=126). Wade had shots but couldn’t convert. Wade would get a leg back to 13-4 then win two more for 13-6. At 15-6 down, Wade made one last run taking advantage of three missed Taylor doubles, then copped another leg which was his best of the night. Wade strung together a pair of T80’s adding a triple 20 but then gained only 20 which scotched the chance of a 9-darter. Wade still won the leg for 15-8. The last three went to Taylor with Wade never getting to the double zone.
This would be the 12th World Matchplay title for Taylor but in many ways maybe the most satisfying. No major titles in 12 months, his personal life in the news as fellow players, most silently, were predicting that the “King had no thrown. He’s yesterday’s news.”
Having defended his title and with an additional £100,000 in the bank his critics have had to dine on “crow without a nice Chianti or the always popular fava beans.” He showed ’em spades.
Had it not been for Taylor, Andy Hamilton would have stolen the show. He was magnificent. He was and is “everyman” reaching for the pinnacle of success, falling just short. He went out on his sword unlike some who just mail it in. In the end everybody was happy.
On the same day that the Phil Taylor of golf, Tiger Woods, reached a new low Taylor climbed to new heights.
The ODC could be heard humming “All I Wanna Do.”