QUARTET AIMING TO LIFT McCOY’S PREMIER LEAGUE DARTS TITLE AT THE O2
THE three-month battle for the McCoy’s Premier League Darts title will culminate at The O2 in London on Thursday night, as Phil Taylor, Simon Whitlock, Andy Hamilton and James Wade do battle in the event’s Play-Offs.
The quartet progressed to compete for the £150,000 first prize in Thursday’s semi-finals and final following their success across 14 weekly rounds held in arenas around the UK and Ireland.
Taylor was a comfortable league leader after losing only one of his 14 league games, with Whitlock finishing second, while both Hamilton and Wade won their places in the semi-finals on a dramatic final league night last week.
Whitlock’s win over Adrian Lewis denied the World Champion a top-four finish, while Hamilton defeated Kevin Painter to finish third and Wade edged out Raymond van Barneveld on leg difference after they drew in their decisive contest.
Thursday’s Play-Offs will now see Taylor face Wade in the semi-finals in a repeat of the Premier League finals in 2008 and 2010 – with the latter seeing history created when Taylor hit two nine-dart finishes in a 10-8 triumph.
Whitlock plays Hamilton in the other semi-final, with the two winners then returning to the stage in front of around 10,000 fans to battle for the prestigious trophy.
“I can’t wait,” said Taylor, the 2/5 favourite to take the title with William Hill. “It’s going to be a massive night and I’m really up for it because this is the culmination of four months of work.
“The Premier League’s up there now for me in being as big as the World Championship and I really am going to try my best on Thursday.
“It’s going to be tough against James in the semi-finals but I’m hugely determined to get that trophy back. It means everything to me – I want to get Gary Anderson’s name off the trophy and get mine back on it!”
Wade won the 2009 Premier League title and is the second most successful player in the PDC’s history behind Taylor, having won seven major titles since 2007.
“I’ve got to win two games now but it’s not as simple as that because I’m playing Phil in the semis,” said Wade, the world number three. “Hopefully I’ll win the first one and then we’ll see what happens.
“I think it’s quite clear that Phil does something special against me and prepares perhaps even a little bit differently. I take that as a sign that he wants to kick my backside every time.
“If I can beat him in the semi-finals then hopefully I’ll have a good game in the final – but I’ve got to try and beat Phil first. I’m being positive about it and not frightened by playing him.”
The other semi-final sees Australian star Whitlock returning to the Play-Offs, having lost 8-6 in the last four to Wade two years ago only to miss out in 2011.
Having impressed in finishing second in the league table after 14 weeks, he said: “I set myself goals and I’ve achieved the first one, but the job’s not done yet – I want to make the final and win it.
“I was a bit unlucky when I lost in the semis two years ago; James pulled out one big finish which hurt me, and I still haven’t forgotten that. Hopefully I can make up for that now.”
World Championship finalist Hamilton has enjoyed a brilliant second half to his debut Premier League season – having found himself bottom of the table after six games before losing just once in his final eight to defy the pundits in reaching the Play-Offs.
“Nobody expected me to get here, and whatever happens now is a bonus to me,” he said. “I’ll keep playing darts and keep fighting like The Hammer does.
“I’ve earned the right to be in the top four and the semi-final will be a battle again. I’ve got nothing to lose and I’ve got a lot to gain. On my day I can beat anybody, I know I can.
“I’ve played some great darts and I’ll fight for a game as well – if someone wants a battle, give me the biggest battle ever. Don’t write me off!”
Hamilton enjoyed his first visit to The O2 on Wednesday, and admitted: “It’s an incredible venue and I can’t wait to get on stage now.
“It will be an amazing atmosphere on Thursday night and I think it will bring the best out of me.”
The McCoy’s Premier League Darts semi-finals will be played over the best of 15 legs, with the final being the best of 19 legs.
William Hill, the official betting partner of the McCoy’s Premier League Darts, make Taylor their odds-on 2/5 favourite to claim his sixth Premier League title on Thursday.
Whitlock is the 9/2 second favourite, with Wade priced at 7/1 to claim his second Premier League Darts title and newcomer Hamilton the 10/1 outsider after qualifying for the Play-Offs in his debut season.
Taylor is 1/5 to win his semi-final against Wade, who is rated as 7/2 to win through to the decider.
Whitlock is the 4/9 favourite to win the other semi-final against Hamilton, who is rated as 7/4 despite the Stoke ace taking a win and a draw from the pair’s two league contests this season.
Following the semi-finals, the PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship Final will be held, as 23-year-old Dutchman Michael van Gerwen plays Norfolk’s 19-year-old James Hubbard over the best of 11 legs, with the winner taking a £15,000 first prize.
The evening will also see a special performance of the charity single ‘Got My Ticket For The Darts’, written by Chas Hodges and released this week to raise money for Haven House Children’s Hospice, priced at 99p and available from iTunes.
Some tickets, including a small number of floor table seats, remain on sale for Thursday’s McCoy’s Premier League Darts Play-Offs. To purchase, call 0844 856 0202 or visit www.theo2.co.uk.
McCoy’s Premier League Darts Play-Offs
The O2, London – May 17
Tickets: 0844 856 0202 or www.theo2.co.uk
Simon Whitlock v Andy Hamilton
Phil Taylor v James Wade
Best of 15 legs
PDC Unicorn World Youth Championship Final
Michael van Gerwen v James Hubbard
Best of 11 legs
McCoy’s Premier League Darts Final
Taylor/Wade v Whitlock/Hamilton
Best of 19 legs
For all games, the order of throw will be decided by a bull-off pre-match in the practice room. Should a game go to a deciding leg, there would not be any further bull-off, meaning that the player who throws first in the opening leg of the game throws first in the deciding leg.
William Hill Odds
2/5 Phil Taylor
9/2 Simon Whitlock
7/1 James Wade
10/1 Andy Hamilton
Simon Whitlock v Andy Hamilton
4/9 Simon Whitlock
7/4 Andy Hamilton
Phil Taylor v James Wade
1/5 Phil Taylor
7/2 James Wade
William Hill are the official betting partner of the McCoy’s Premier League Darts – for the latest odds, visit www.williamhill.com.