Column #HR51 The European Championships
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
The European Championships
There is supposed to be “order” in the world. While people may not like it, gripe about it or approve of it they are comfortable and somewhat accepting. When that order is disturbed there is a malady that hangs over the populace.
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Okay, good idea. Clowns are elected to public office, spend every penny the government collects, then raise taxes for more money, blame the taxpayer for not paying enough and then said clowns are expected to solve the problem they caused.
On the East Coast of the United States people whine about everything. “It’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s windy, etc.” The New York Yankee’s rule baseball (except in Boston), the Dallas Cowboy’s are America’s Team, everybody loves THE MIGHTY SAN JOSE STATE SPARTANS and $1 beer night at the ballpark should be the 11th Commandant.
In the darting world “order” includes Philip Douglas Taylor mowing down opposition to win another major television title. The darting world’s “order” had been on hold for almost 12 months as Taylor appeared to be “human.” He’s been beaten by mere mortals. Missed double and almost there triples have plagued Taylor almost like your average human being. After a 12 month hiatus Taylor copped the World Matchplay title to get off the year-long snyder. Now he’s back again just 7 days later with the European Championship in his pocket for the fourth year in a row. He did it with a resounding 11-8 thumping of current world champion Adrian Lewis. Taylor, on stage, tossed the red bull to start the match, then tossed the red bull to close the deal on the end of a 164-check (60-54-bull) which followed a T80. OK that was only the 18th leg but there was not a lot of drama in the 19th as Taylor took it in 14 darts as Lewis watched on 58. Taylor takes home £50,000 and his second major in two weeks.
There is no greater tribute to the success of the PDC and Head Honcho Barry Hearn then in the fact that the PDC goes from the £400,000 World Matchplay to the £200,000 PartyPoker.net European Championships. This year the Matchplay was held in Dusseldorf, Germany at the lovely Maritim Hotel. The German crowd couldn’t have been better especially in the evening when singing fluid was in plentiful supply and consumed with gusto. They were especially vociferous when Taylor was on or near the stage. Throughout Taylor’s play they sang and sang and sang and sang. Every holiday season the Old Dart Coach, when he hears “Winter Wonderland,” wants to sing “Walking in Taylor Wonderland” or “Walking Around in Women’s Underwear” to the same tune. Added to the usual PDC “suspects” toss in Mensur Suljovic (Austria), Kim Huybrechts (Belgium), Antonio Alcinas (viva Espana), veteran Magus Caris from Sweden and John Michael of Greece. Got to feel for Greece and Michael. As if things weren’t bad enough at home he faced Taylor in the first round.
Those making a rare appearance in a PDC TV event were just trying to prove that they belonged. Besides they got £2,500 just for showing up. In all honesty, most of the newbies played well save one. They played well but not “PDC well” again save one. Simon Whitlock, who was coming off the “el foldo” in the Matchplay, got Mensur Suljovic of Austria who once upset James Wade in the world championships. Not this time as Whitlock wins 6-2. Probably having the most fun of any qualifier was Greece’s John Michael which most would agree is not the most Greek name in the books. As Taylor was introduced to stroll down the semi-spiral staircase accompanied by two very well endowed ladies directly onto stage left, Michael led the singing of “Walking in a Taylor Wonderland.” Boy did he start something.
Against the darts Michael had a T80 with a 102-out (60-10, 2×16) to leap to a 1-nil lead. 1-nil a leap? Against Taylor any lead is a leap. Okay, it didn’t last long. Even down 4-2 Michael kept smiling and playing well. One blogger inserted “The kebab seller is putting up a game.” Yes he was but Taylor took the match 6-3 hitting on 6 of 7 out shots. One of the morons doing the telecast (who were definitely not ready for prime time) asked Taylor “Can you win this tournament?” Sweden’s Magus Caris fell victim to James Wade. Holland’s “Shaved Head” Michael van Gerwen went out to Ronnie Baxter 6-4 in a match that was there for the taking by the Dutchman. During play a blogger wrote of van Gerwen “Looks like he just came back from a lobotomy.”
A cynic would say that the PDC in matching Kim Huybrechts of Belgium against Spain’s Antonio Alcinas in round one was one way to insure that a “newbie” would be appearing in round two. That would be the “Croft Rule” of old. “Oh ye of little faith,” as H.H. “Chick” Reed would say. Huybrechts played well, winning 6-2. Star of the future Dave Chisnall took out the rapid throwing Jelle Klaasen 6-4 despite missing 12 darts at a double in the first two legs. How’d he do that? By hitting 6 of 8 from there. Andy “Cinderella Man” Hamilton found out that his coach had turned into a pumpkin as Raymond van Barneveld had his way 6-4 after leading 3-1.
Mervyn King seems to always be troubled by something. In his match against Phil Taylor it was said he has “tennis elbow.” Taylor jumped to an early 3-0 lead – of course it was early as only three legs played – averaging 120-plus in 12-14-11 darts. King got it back to 3-2 down thanks to Taylor missing doubles. At 7-2 Taylor up it was heard from the TV “King doesn’t look well. He’s grimacing after each dart.” Question: “Could it be tennis elbow?” “Naw, it’s Taylor Flu,” answered the ODC.
Peter “Snake Bite” Wright may have found the secret of darts. Oh he of the stupid looking hair, both color and style, was sporting a “do” like old Dolly’s coat of many colors. The “do” took his wife 2 ½ hours. When Wright fell behind 3-2 the ODC quipped “Wright should have been at the practice board instead in a “do” parlor. Another aside to this match was that Anderson was breaking in a “new” style dart. Could this be a built in excuse?
After Wright leveled at 5 going into the second break, in the race to 10, Anderson switched back to his “old” darts. Wright used outs of 116 and 121 on his way to a 10-5 win. Anderson, always with an excuse at hand, said “I’ll probably take a brake from darts.” The ODC thinks the problem is that he took a break before his match with Peter Wright.
The upset of the tournament had to be when Kim Huybrechts beat Wes Newton 10-8. Huybrechts built a 5-2 lead which Newton would level at 5 with a 12-darter. They would be level at 6 and 7. Newton actually took the lead at 7-6 when “The Belgium Waffle” misses a double. Newton would return the honor on the next leg. Huybrechts wins 10-8.
Ronnie Baxter up 3-nil missed 6 at a double to let Wade in at 3-1. Not a good idea. Wade wins 10-7.
“Jackpot” Adrian Lewis broke a 5-all tie against Dave Chisnall with a run of 5 for a 10-5 win. One blogger, with little amour of him, wrote, “Jackpot has an adorable punchable face.”
Mark Walsh coming of his “nail biter” win in round 1 was up on Raymond van Barneveld early 3-1. It’s silly to say, except in retrospect, that a match turned with a single leg or legs. This one though went south for Walsh leading 3-2. Coming from break Walsh misses the back end of a 110 check. Barney converts 121 to draw level. Walsh next adds a pair of T80’s only to be on the losing end of another 121 finish, on the bull, by Barney. Barney wins 10-5.
Paul Nicholson was a easy 10-4 winner over Terry Jenkins. This set up a meeting with Phil Taylor in the quarter finals. This was being billed as the “Gunfight at the OK Coral.” Old saying, when in a gunfight never bring a knife.”
Simon Whitlock took out Peter Wright but it wasn’t that easy. Whitlock, maybe with his collapse at the Matchplay still on his mind, was up 9-5 and then missed 4 at a double. No problem as he evaporates 90 (20-20-BULL) to win 10-6. Enough doubles will protect against “Snakebite.”
World Champion Adrian Lewis, as he has want to do sometimes, “casuals” himself into trouble. He did it against Kim Huybrechts after starting 5-nil. Though he maintained leads of 7-5, 8 and 9-6 it was a shaky lead. Huybrechts had a dart to level at 9 but missed. At this point came another one of those moments that make the viewer realize that darts commentators “babble.” “No one wants to draw him (Huybrechts) in the next TV tournament.” Dolt.
Raymond van Barneveld played in the World Matchplay with borrowed darts as his were left in Holland. Barneveld with his “real darts” back played about as well as you can in beating James Wade 10-8. This reverses the score line from the MatchPlay where Wade prevailed 16-8. Wade had the early advantage 2-1 which Barney leveled with a 167- check. A 12-darter gave Barney a 3-2 at the first break. Barney took the second set of 5, also 3-2 for a 6-4 lead. At 9-7 Barney missed a dart for the match. Being a gentleman Wade did the same thing, trailing 8-9. Barney took out 72 for the win.
The main event was of course Paul Nicholson against Phil Taylor. One TV guy asked, “What s the best way to play Phil Taylor?” The ODC yells, “Hit more doubles including the last one, you moron!” Nicholson couldn’t have started any better with a run to 3-nil up in which Taylor never had a dart at a finish. Taylor narrows the gap to 3-2 with a 111 check (19-60-2 x 6). Coming back from the break Taylor would level at 3 with the old bartender’s out. “Bartenders out?” That would be 86 as in “86’d you’re out of here.” Taylor went up 5-3. Said the TV announcer when Nicholson left 101, “He failed to leave a two-dart out.” “Dear TV guy: 101 is a two-dart out with 51 and bull. Thank you and we appreciate your ignorance.”
Nicholson used a unique out from 100: 20-triple 16 and double 16 for 5-4 down. The theory here is that Nicholson was going intimidate Taylor with a showboat out. Nice try. Nicholson would lead 7-6 when Taylor pulled level with double tops. Taylor takes the lead for good with a 129-check (57-60-2 x 6), adds a double 16 and then when Nicholson misses a bull finish takes out 138 (60-60-2 x 9) for the 10-7 win. No, Taylor didn’t say “Make my day” but he damn sure could have. Taylor would average 102.36 with Nicholson just a step behind at 98.45. Taylor brought a gun. Nicholson a Swiss army knife.
The semi finals and finals were played back-to-back and belly-to-belly. Phil Taylor walked into the finals with an easy win over Simon Whitlock. To state the oblivious, Whitlock had double trouble connecting on only 4 from 19. The official PDC website claims he hit 10 of 29 but that would be difficult when you lose 11-4. While Taylor’s average was under 100 for the first time, at 99.52, when you win 11-4 it doesn’t make any difference.
The other semi was a barn burner. With both Lewis and van Barneveld it sometimes appears that they have lost interest in the proceedings. That was the case here when Lewis jumped to a 7-3 lead in the race to 11. Barney had missed a pot full of finishes. Lewis then stalls when up 8-4 as Barney gets to 8-7 down. A Lewis 12-darter makes it 9-7. Lewis gets to within one with a perfect 9-darter (180-180-60-57 then 2 x12). Lewis misses as Barney converts for 10-8 which becomes 10-9 when Lewis misses 5 at a double. Lewis then misses 6 for the match allowing Barney to draw level at 10. With the darts Barney throws a 137 to leave 24. Barney never gets a shot as Lewis uses 60-17 and RED BULL for the match. Usually averages don’t mean a lot but in this one Lewis outscored Barney 100.63 to 95.34 which allowed him one more opportunity for a double which he took. So there.
The Taylor-Lewis 11-8 score really doesn’t reflect the difference between the two players on this night in Dusseldorf. With a crowd of fans full of “singing fluid” singing their baby hearts out, ad nauseam – from the Latin term to describe a act that continues to nauseate – Philip Douglas Taylor put on a clinic of darts throwing. He averaged 109.29 against 98.72, had outs of 164, 122 and 121 and hit on 11 of 24 doubles. Taylor trailed 3-1, 3-2 and 4-3. In those legs Taylor missed 8 doubles. From that point on he was 50% with 8 of 16.
“Order” has returned to the darting world. The sun will rise in the East and Phil Taylor reigns supreme.
The ODC’s pal from way back, the Hovercraft, emailed him the results of a recent Harris on-line poll in which 38,562 men across the USA were asked to identify a women’s ultimate fantasy. 97.8% replied it was to have two men at once. A follow up email informed the ODC that with further investigation it was concluded that indeed a women’s ultimate fantasy was to have two men: one cleaning and the other cooking. So the order of things isn’t completely perfect…
Oh well, at least Phil Taylor won and $1 beer night at the old ball park is just around the corner…