He has done it again!
Phil Taylor raced to a 6th Premier League title, but he was forced to dig deep to see off the challenge of Simon Whitlock to take the crown at the O2.
After edging past James Wade 8-6 in a nail-biting semi-final, the Unicorn star was far from his best in the final, but had enough in the tank to beat the brave Aussie by 10 legs to 7.
But Whitlock will never forget the finals night in London.....the Aussie hitting a magical 9 dart leg in his semi-final victory over Andy Hamilton!
So, Taylor wins back another of the sports big TV ‘Majors’ and pockets £150,000 to celebrate his latest triumph!
“I am delighted and relieved!” admitted Taylor.
“It means so much to me to win the title back. I have put everything into this event, mentally and physically and although he rattled me, I had to refocus and keep my concentration.”
“The money is great but it is the trophy and the title that matters. This is without the doubt the second biggest tournament after the World Championship, but I reckon it is the hardest one to win.”
“I now want to win all the big tournaments. I have always wanted to achieve that and the UK Open at Bolton is in my sights next month.”
“But for me, this is job done. It has been an emotional ride and it really does mean so very much to me.”
Taylor was forced to fight for his win....after racing 6-1 clear, he saw Whitlock mount a terrific comeback to level at 7-7....
When Taylor took out 109 ( 19, bull, ‘tops’ ) to go 6-1 up, it looked all over....but fair play to Whitlock as he found a second wind!
From 2-7 down, he won five straight legs and Taylor was certainly feeling the heat in front of over 9,000 fans at the O2!
The key moment came in the 15th leg. Whitlock wired D16 for what would have been a 149 check-out to move ahead at 8-7.
Taylor made him pay.....finishes of 80, 96 and 73 took him to the PL crown.
Job done Mr T!
James Wade came so close to upsetting Taylor in a thrilling semi-final....and but for crucial missed doubles and one moment of magic from ‘The Power’, he might have done just that!
Wade was 4-2 up with a crucial break of throw in the 6th leg, but Taylor came out after the break doubly determined.
He won four straight legs, but only after Wade missed ‘tops’ for a 5-2 advantage and then D18 for a 5-4 lead....
‘The Machine’ deservedly got it back to 6-6 and ultimately, the 13th leg proved to be the match-winning leg.
Wade was sat on 58 to move 7-6 in front, only for Taylor to come up with a fantastic 149 finish.....quite incredible! And he took out 80, with Wade waiting on 76, to reach yet another ‘Major’ TV Final.
So the dream ended for Andy Hamilton in the semi-finals.....the Unicorn man can hold his head up high after a terrific PL campaign, but he was also left rueing missed opportunities.
Despite Whitlock’s wonderful 9-darter, Hamilton led 4-1 as he hit three 180s of his own and finishes of 130 and 112.
And when he opened up a 6-4 advantage, ‘The Hammer’ looked on course for the final.....but his finishing – so good at the start of the match – failed him when it really mattered.
Despite a third ton plus finish (110), he missed darts to move 6-3 ahead with a double break and after the Aussie had got it back to 6-6, Hamilton still had a great chance to break, move 7-6 up and throw for the match.
But he missed darts at D18 and D9 and Whitlock went ahead for the first time....he followed up with a 76 check-out to make it four consecutive legs and a place in the final.
“Obviously I am disappointed to lose it in that manner,” Hamilton said. “But I am very proud of what I have achieved over the last three months or so and have loved every single minute of it. I want more now and I will be doing all I can to come back and do it all over again next year!”
Results – Semi-Finals:
Phil Taylor 8-6 James Wade
Simon Whitlock 8-6 Andy Hamilton
Losers - £50,000
Phil Taylor 10-7 Simon Whitlock
Winner - £150,000
Runner-up - £70,000
By STUART PYKE
Photos courtesy Lawrence Lustig / PDC