Taylor turns on power to win 15th darts title
Only a show of magic was going to deny Phil Taylor his 15th world title but not even Simon “The Wizard” Whitlock was able to cast his spell over the game's greatest player here last night.
The 40-year-old Australian has been the unlikely hero of this year's Ladbrokes.com PDC World Championship and briefly threatened to claim the £200,000 first prize, but after a shaky start Taylor took command of the final, winning it 7-3.
Whitlock, the world No 98 and a 66-1 outsider at the start of the tournament, had beaten five seeds en route to the final, including Raymond van Barneveld and James Wade, No 2 and No 3 in the world respectively, but the champion's standards over the last fortnight have been equally outstanding.
Taylor had dropped only one set en route to the final and it said everything for Whitlock when the Australian took two of the first three last night.
For the most part Whitlock maintained the finishing form he had been hitting throughout the tournament.
Taylor was uncharacteristically shaky on his doubles in the early stages, but by the end the 49-year-old was back to his brilliant best.
The backgrounds of the two finalists could hardly have been more different.
Taylor, who won his first world title 20 years ago, is the undisputed king of the oche and has become a rich man through his darting prowess. Last year alone he won more than £750,000 in prize money.
In recent times, “The Power” has been more electrifying than ever, winning an average of three out of every four tournaments he plays after switching to remodelled darts, following advice from a former Ministry of Defence expert in missile technology and aerodynamics.
Whitlock, in contrast, has been one of the game's journeymen, rarely reaching the latter stages of the big events.
The bricklayer from Brisbane, whose parents emigrated from Britain nearly 50 years ago, made his first breakthrough when he reached the final of the rival British Darts Organisation's world championship at Frimley Green two years ago.
He decided to turn professional last year, quitting the BDO to join the Professional Darts Corporation circuit, but travelling to and from Australia has been a gruelling and costly business.
He was starting to question his future until he arrived in north London before Christmas, but the events of the last fortnight will change his life. His performances here have already attracted the interest of new sponsors and he plans to move permanently to Britain and play darts full-time.
The final began in suitably dynamic fashion. Taylor hit maximum 180s on his first visit in each of the first three legs, though he took longer to find his rhythm on the doubles, missing with his first six attempts.
Whitlock had got off to a flier in some of his earlier matches -- he had a remarkable three-dart average of 117.12 in winning the first two sets against Wade — but on this occasion he looked nervous at the start. Snatching at his darts, the Australian's early average dipped below 90, while Taylor hit 105.32 in taking the first set with something to spare.
The underdog quickly bit back, however, Whitlock levelling the match with superb check-outs of 170, 82 and 76 in a bizarre second set in which all five legs went against the throw. After Taylor missed three doubles in a pivotal third leg of the second set, Whitlock took the lead, though his advantage did not last long. Taylor won six of the next seven legs and went 3-2 up with check-outs of 167 and 161 in the fifth set.
At 2-5 down Whitlock played a fighting eighth set, but Taylor's 170 check-out against the throw in the second leg was enough to knock the stuffing out of any opponent. From that point onwards there was no stopping him.