Simon Whitlock won his third PDC ranking title of 2017 as he defeated surprise package Darren Johnson 6-3 in the final of Sunday’s Players Championship Four in Barnsley, where Joe Cullen landed a nine-dart finish.
Whitlock followed up his ProTour double of two Coral UK Open Qualifier wins in February by taking home the £10,000 first prize to complete the weekend’s tournaments at the Barnsley Metrodome.
The Australian’s return to form began with a pair of Players Championship wins in the latter part of 2016, and he continued his winning streak in style.
Early wins over Scott Darbyshire, Devon Petersen and Andy Jenkins moved Whitlock into the last 16, where he overcame last Sunday’s UK Open finalist Gerwyn Price 6-4.
He then defeated world number two Gary Anderson 6-5 – after surviving a missed match dart from the two-time World Champion – before seeing off Kim Huybrechts 6-3 in the semi-finals.
As he had in the last four, Whitlock raced into a 3-0 against Johnson in the final, and after double three put the Yorkshireman on the board it was the Australian who took the next two for a 5-1 cushion.
Two missed match darts in leg seven allowed Johnson to keep his hopes alive, before he took out 100 to pull back to 5-3, but Whitlock’s scoring power was too strong in leg nine as the Australian set up double two for victory.
Johnson’s performance was his best-ever on the PDC circuit, with the Mexborough man last having reached a ProTour semi-final six years ago.
After opening his day with wins over Betway Premier League stars Dave Chisnall and Raymond van Barneveld, Johnson then defeated Dutch duo Jimmy Hendriks and Benito van de Pas and Coventry’s Steve Hine to move into the last four.
There, he held his nerve against World Champion Michael van Gerwen, who hit back from 5-3 down to force a decider only to see Johnson hit a 180 in a 13-darter to secure his spot in the final.
Although he failed to defeat Whitlock, Johnson’s day – which included wins over four players from the world’s top 16 – saw the Mexborough thrower earn £6,000 in prize money.
Huybrechts followed up his nine-dart finish on Saturday with a run to the semi-finals on Sunday, with Van Gerwen also progressing to the last four to claim £3,000 in prize money.
Anderson’s bid to win a second Players Championship of the year ended in the last eight alongside Ian White, Van de Pas and Dirk van Duijvenbode.
Dutch youngster Van Duijvenbode progressed to his first quarter-final on the ProTour since July 2015, defeating Ryan Searle, Jamie Bain, Cristo Reyes and Christian Kist before being edged out by Huybrechts.
Joe Cullen landed his first competitive nine-dart finish as he hit the 11th perfect leg of the year during his second round win over Jim Brown, scoring two 180s before finishing 141 with treble 20, treble 15 and double 18.
Saturday’s Players Championship Three winner Rob Cross lost out in the last 32 to White, while Premier League duo James Wade and Jelle Klaasen were joined by Austrian ace Mensur Suljovic amongst the losers at the last 16 stage.