How can you beat perfection? You do it again. Michael van Gerwen is fast becoming the definition of unbeatable after retaining the Coral UK Open on Sunday night.
The PDC’s world number one went into the final day at Butlin’s Resort in Minehead having hit a nine-darter and no fewer than four 170 finishes. His name looked certain to be going on the trophy for a second time.
As it turned out, the closest a player got to him in the end was within four legs. Phil Taylor posed the biggest threat to the Dutchman when he went 4-1 up in their semi-final meeting, while Riley’s Amateur Qualifiers Rob Cross and Barry Lynn both impressed in 9-5 and 10-6 defeats to the holder.
This was the third year that the tournament, known as the ‘FA Cup of Darts’ was held down in Somerset, and although some will still have preferred it to stay at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton (now known as the Macron Stadium), it feels like it is starting to get more at home in its new surroundings.
The opening day provided its fair share of drama, with the early rounds conjuring up the demise of its first Premier League player.
Arron Monk, who was crowned the first-ever PDC World Youth Champion back in 2011, showed he still has that same potential as he dumped out Robert Thornton 6-4 in the second round.
Wes Newton, Andrew Gilding and Kevin Painter were all familiar faces who exited the tournament before the third round draw took place, when the likes of van Gerwen and Taylor came in.
Five of the 32 Riley’s Qualifiers had made it into the hat for the last 64 draw, including former tour card holders Alex Roy and Steve Maish as well as the unfamiliar names of Rob Cross, Andrew Davidson and Barry Lynn.
The big guns dominated the main stage on Friday night, with van Gerwen, Taylor and Adrian Lewis all recording straight forward wins.
While Gary Anderson came from behind to beat Dave Chisnall 9-7 in an all-Premier League contest, and over the weekend it would be one of the closest games on the main stage at the Butlin’s Resort.
With the tournament also operating a second stage and a room with as many as six other boards, the action was coming thick and fast as players battled it out for a place in the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.
Two-time UK Open champion Raymond van Barneveld made a notable appearance on the outside boards, where he narrowly edged out David Pallett, while Stephen Bunting and Michael Smith also had to win deciding legs to beat Jamie Lewis and Daryl Gurney respectively. Controversy ensued on the outer boards were Mensur Suljovic thrashed James Wade 9-2, with the Machine complaining about the quality of the board after the defeat to the Austrian.
Davidson, Roy and Maish’s UK Open campaigns were ended on Friday night, but Lynn and Cross managed to squeeze through into the last 32, and the rewards for both could not have been better.
Hastings-based electrician Cross was drawn to play defending champion van Gerwen, while Braintree’s Lynn earned a shot at world champion Anderson.
After routine wins for Benito van de Pas and Peter Wright kicked off the action on the main stage on Saturday, Cross took on van Gerwen and certainly held his own in the 9-5 defeat to the Dutchman.
In fact, Cross was well in the game at 5-3 down and it really did take a three leg spell of brilliance to end his hopes of an upset.
A score of 177 followed by a 170 checkout put van Gerwen 6-3 up, before a stunning nine-dart leg gave him some breathing space.
Another 177 started the 11th leg for the holder, which made it an astonishing 18 perfect darts in a row and it got even better as MVG finished off another 170 checkout to seal the win with a 107 average.
And just minutes later, the buzz around the Butlin’s Resort was further heightened when Lynn produced one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s 14-year history, as he eased past reigning William Hill World Champion Anderson 9-3.
“If someone else can take out Michael van Gerwen, I’d be very grateful and very confident I could win this now. I’ve just taken out a two-time world champion so I’m not afraid of anyone,” Lynn said after beating the Flying Scotsman on board two.
After the pair missed each other in the fifth round draw, Lynn would be pinning his hopes on Kim Huybrechts to dump out MVG.
The Hurricane had breezed into the last 16, dropping just four legs in wins over Maish and Justin Pipe, but posted the lowest average of the round (86.72) and was beaten 9-2 by van Gerwen.
Lynn became the first Riley’s Qualifier to reach the quarter-finals of the UK Open as he beat a resurgent Stuart Kellett 9-5, while elsewhere Joe Cullen booked his place in a first major quarter-final after beating Bunting 9-7.
Klaasen’s omission from this year’s Premier League became even more peculiar as he put in an impressive performance to beat Lewis 9-7 on the main stage.
The Cobra would go on and beat Kyle Anderson 10-0 in the quarter-finals to reach back-to-back major semi-finals for the first time in his PDC career, and if he continues this form he could well be nudging ahead of van Barneveld to represent Holland in the World Cup later this year.
The quarter-final draw kept the top four players left in the tournament apart from each other, and the four games all went to the form book. Peter Wright held his nerve to get over the line against a spirited Cullen 10-7, while Taylor eased past Mark Webster 10-3.
The quarter-final clash between van Gerwen and Lynn lived up to the billing as the amateur thrower produced a plucky performance against the defending champion, eventually losing 10-6.
MVG made a typically explosive start to go 4-0 in front, but Lynn was undeterred as he cut van Gerwen’s lead to 7-5 and then 8-6, which produced a roar from the Minehead crowd only bettered when the nine darter was thrown.
“Playing Michael on stage was amazing,” Lynn said. “I loved it but it was hard at the beginning and the pressure got to me.
“Michael’s just class and to see him doing his business against me is absolutely unbelievable. I truly believe that this is the start of something special.”
The name Barry Lynn will be remembered for quite some time around the darting circles, but after his exit the attention turned to the final session and the four players left battling for the title.
Last year’s beaten finalist Wright made it through to another major final as he saw off Klaasen 10-5 in the first semi-final, before van Gerwen ensured it was a repeat of the 2015 final as he came from 4-1 down to beat Taylor 10-6.
MVG had beaten Wright in four of his six final defeats in front of the television cameras, and kept Snakebite waiting for his first big title in the PDC as he raced away to a comfortable 11-4 victory on the main stage.
All the drama really came in the final leg as the Scot missed double 12 for a nine dart leg, and after missing more doubles in his next turn was punished as MVG completed his title defence.
“I’m really pleased to win another trophy,” he said. “I had four 170 finishes, a nine-darter and won the tournament, it’s fantastic.”