Who is Stoke’s best thrower? Rory Delap? Not likely. Try Phil Taylor, the tubby Trentsider who trounced Dutch master Raymond van Barneveld 7-1 in the Ladbrokes.com World Darts Championship on Sunday to take his 14th version of the title, and first in three years.
‘The Power’ – 48, overweight, but “feeling great” – was electric in racking up a three-dart average of 109.76 – breaking his own record for a major final; Taylor’s sheer brilliance, and that of the runner-up, elevating their ‘sport’ above what many see as merely a silly season curiosity.
Van Barneveld had scored a sensational nine-dart finish to clinch his semi-final and said after reaching another decider that he was “on top of the world.”
As his friendly rival and practice partner Phil might say, wrong mate.
Barney was made rubble, but recognised that his own 101.5 average at the oche during Sunday’s showdown would have won him the championship any other year. Instead he got “stuffed. I practiced 10 hours a day, I can’t do anything more. I can’t get to that level – never, ever,” he admitted.
“Nobody remembers second place – everybody loves a winner,” proclaimed Phil, whose celebrity friends might outweigh his popularity, if not his appreciation, among the wider public. He’s aiming to keep winning well into his fifties, “as long as I get down the gym.”
Sid Waddell, commentating for Sky, declared: “He has mastered a game we never thought could be mastered – we are privileged to be seeing the greatest player there ever will be. You talk about Tiger Woods or Babe Ruth – Taylor will get 20 [world championships] and nothing in darts or any other sport will compare.”
Hyperbole from the most hyper hyperbolist of them all, perhaps, but there’s no denying who is the all-time ace of arrows. And it aint William Tell.