It’s hard to think of a world where the answer to the question: ‘who is the best ever darts player?’ would not be Phil Taylor. Yet, in the early months of 2016 another name is mounting a real claim to that title.
This is the third consecutive year that Michael van Gerwen has started at the top of the PDC’s Order of Merit, but still darts fans around the world widely regard Taylor as the best ever.
MVG has won title after title both on and off the TV since lifting his maiden PDC major in the World Grand Prix at the back end of 2012, and is rapidly catching up with the Power’s trophy haul.
But it was the Dutchman’s performance in Aberdeen which has really left us wondering if the ‘best ever’ tag could soon be switching hands.
An astounding 123.40 three dart average led van Gerwen to a 7-1 thrashing against Michael Smith in week four of the Premier League and is the highest televised average in the history of the sport.
The previous record stood at 118.66, which was set by Taylor almost six years ago in the UK Open, and before then it was 116.01, again set by the 16-time world champion back in 2009.
What was more incredible with van Gerwen’s record average was that it could have been even higher. Three missed darts at double 18 in leg seven brought his average down, and after Smith checked out, ensured an eighth leg would be played.
MVG sealed the victory and the new record average in the next leg, and although many can point at how Taylor went up on stage in the next game and threw a 115.25 average, all the talk was about the man in green.
Last week in Exeter, van Gerwen followed up his Aberdeen heroics with a 116.67 average to beat Peter Wright 7-2 and climb to the top of the Premier League table.
Taylor also posted a 100+ average as he comfortably saw off Adrian Lewis 7-1 to move up to second, yet the feeling is right now whatever he can do, van Gerwen can do even better.
Times change and as one player’s career comes to an end, another’s is just getting started. Taylor’s 16 World Championship titles is one record which not even van Gerwen himself can see being broken.
Nor can you foresee MVG still playing at the top level in his mid-fifties, but when both players call it a day no doubt what they’ve achieved in the sport will be compared, and commentators, writers and fans will have their say on who they think was the best.
Right now Taylor’s career is still going strong. He is still among the sport’s elite, fourth in the Order of Merit, flying high near the top of the Premier League and recording the big averages.
The number of major titles being collected is a lot less than what it was before, most of those nowadays are being snapped up by van Gerwen, but he still has the game to perform with the best.
MVG has been number one for the last few years and the true test to see whether he can eventually overtake Taylor as the greatest of all-time, will come with time.
Taylor dominated the PDC circuit for close to 20 years and it is for that reason why he is classed as the best, but if van Gerwen carries on then he won’t be forever.