London: Phil Taylor regained his PDC world championship crown at Alexandra Palace in front of a boisterously unbound New Year’s Day crowd, a 16th title confirming Taylor’s status as the definitive champion not just in the modern pay-TV era but in the history of competitive darts.
“I’m probably the proudest man in the world,” he said afterwards, not so much triumphant as weary with conflicting emotions and capturing the valedictory tone of an evening that saw the Sid Waddell Trophy presented for the first time.
Waddell, the much-loved voice of TV darts, died last year. “Sid was like a father figure to me — he was my biggest fan, Sid was,” Taylor said. “I loved him to bits. I am absolutely over the moon. I can’t explain how I feel. It’s the biggest night of my life.”
Taylor was also quick to suggest that he would indeed be back to defend his title, stilling some previous mutterings about a potential retirement.
“I’m 53 next year and I’m coming back to defend a world title. It’s ridiculous really,” he said, pointedly — and summoning in the moment of victory a champion’s reaction to a stirringly abrasive challenge from the 23-year-old Dutchman Michael van Gerwen.
“I’ve got to give Michael everything. He’s phenomenal that kid and I honestly didn’t think I was going to win,” Taylor said. “I was 2-0 down, then 2-2, then 4-2 [down], then 4-4. I just couldn’t seem to crack him and in my mind I’m thinking it’s his first time, maybe he’ll miss a couple of doubles.
“All of a sudden my darts that were going on the wire were going in and the crowd got behind me and lifted me. They won it for me tonight.”
For Taylor it was a cautiously affectionate reunion with a darts crowd that has occasionally failed to embrace him fully and which was clearly still riled by his altercation with Raymond van Barneveld on Sunday night, when Taylor seemed to manhandle the popular Dutchman at the end of his victorious semi-final.
“What went on two nights before was shocking,” he said. “Barney did pull me about a little bit and I got loads of stick for it and I came here tonight and I just tried. What could I do? I just tried my best.”
Van Gerwen, who will surely be back on darts’ biggest stage in happier circumstances, was hearteningly generous in his tributes to the re-throned 16-time world champion. “Phil played great tonight,” a visibly exhausted Van Gerwen said. “It was a tough game for me. Phil was awesome. I want to say thanks to the crowd and everyone who helped me along.”
Tuesday night’s victory was Taylor’s 74th major win in both the BDO and PDC championships, not including the 119 other tournaments he has won during his glittering career. He is also the first darts player to earn over £1 million (Dh5.9 million) in prize money.