Darren Webster won his first ranking title for 12 years with a brilliant 6-1 defeat of Daryl Gurney in yesterday’s Players Championship 15 final.
The Norwich thrower had entered the final ProTour weekend before the cut-off for qualification for the BetVictor World Matchplay in a precarious position in his bid to secure a spot in Blackpool later this month.
However, he rose to the challenge to take the £10,000 title and seal his World Matchplay place as well as claim a maiden Players Championship title – and his first ranking victory since the Open Oust Nederland in 2005.
Webster – a semi-finalist in last November’s Players Championship Finals – began Saturday’s event with a narrow 6-5 win over Wes Newton before claiming 6-3 wins over Jonathan Worsley and Ron Meulenkamp.
He then overcame another Dutchman, Jeffrey de Graaf, 6-4 at the last 16 stage and overcame Alan Norris for the loss of only two legs to book his place in the semi-finals.
There, he raced into leads of 3-0 and 5-1 against Kyle Anderson only for the Australian to punish six missed match darts from his opponent to pull level.
However, Anderson crucially missed a dart at the bull to snatch victory in leg 11 as Webster returned to land tops for a spot in the final.
There, he shared the opening two legs with Gurney before pulling clear with some fine darts, breaking throw in leg four to lead 3-1 before taking out 60 and 87 to move to the brink of the title, which he sealed with tops for a 13-darter.
“I had a job to do this weekend and I’ve done it,” said Webster. “It’s brilliant, and it means a lot to me.
“I’m practising well and I performed well. I work full-time and I love my work, but I work hard and come home and practice two hours a night.
“I’ve never feared anyone but this could be the turning point. It took me a long time to learn and I’ve got to start doing it on stage consistently.
“I think I can. Last year I think I had two last 16s on TV and a semi-final where I was 6-0 up against Michael van Gerwen. I beat Phil Taylor 5-0 [in the Grand Slam] and this year I’ve had a nine-darter this year and now won a title.
“I’m starting to control myself; I’m controlling my breathing and I’m controlling me. The next ten years will be my years – I don’t feel 50, I feel 20 inside and I’ve got to give it to them while I’m still young.”
Gurney had been bidding to win his second Players Championship of 2017 as he overcame Brendan Dolan, Zoran Lerchbacher, Harry Robinson, Robert Thornton, Dimitri Van den Bergh and Justin Pipe on the day.
The run saw Gurney reach his fourth Players Championship final of the year, but he was unable to halt Webster’s charge in the decider.
“He deserves it,” said Gurney. “He’s been doing it day in, day out for ten, 15 years and he’s a great player. He’s a role model.”
Pipe’s run to the semi-finals was his best performance of the year, and came at a timely moment to move him into the provisional qualifying places for the World Matchplay.
Pipe – who defeated Martin Schindler, Max Hopp, Joe Cullen, Ryan Searle and John Henderson on Saturday – now sits £750 ahead of Chris Dobey and Jonny Clayton going into Sunday’s Players Championship.
Clayton improved his chances of winning a World Matchplay debut by reaching the quarter-finals in Barnsley, overcoming in-form Rob Cross and South African ace Devon Petersen on his way to the last eight.
Kyle Anderson ended Clayton’s hopes in the quarter-finals before narrowly missing his chance to reach the final against Webster, while Norris and Henderson were joined in the last eight by Belgian youngster Van den Bergh.
Mervyn King followed up last week’s run to a European Tour final by reaching the last 16, alongside former World Grand Prix winner Robert Thornton, Petersen, Searle, De Graaf, Mickey Mansell, Steve Lennon and Maik Langendorf.
Sunday’s Players Championship will be the final ranking event before the cut-off for the World Matchplay, with the top 16 from the PDC Order of Merit joined in qualifying by the leading 16 players from the ProTour Order of Merit.