By Alex Moss
14 DECEMBER 2016 • 2:23PM
Phil Taylor says his ‘preparation is going to be perfect’ as he gets ready to embark on another World Championship campaign this weekend.
The 16-time world champion will be playing in his 28th consecutive World Championship when he contests his first round game of the William Hill World Darts Championship on Sunday.
The sport’s most successful player, now ranked fourth on the PDC Order of Merit, has won 14 of the 23 stagings so far of the PDC’s World Championship.
And as he eyes a 17th world title, to break his own record, Taylor insists his preparation will play an important part in his end result.
“I’m feeling alright,” he said. “I’ve had a couple of weeks now to get ready, which I’m pleased about, and for me it’s about rest and practice.
“I’ve got to get my preparation right but I’ve played well this year.
“My preparation is going to be perfect. It is all about preparation and that’s what I’m targeting.”
Having dominated the sport for more than two decades, Taylor has seen his crown slip into the hands of Michael van Gerwen during the last few years.
Since beating the Dutchman to win his 16th world title in 2013, Taylor has only got past the third round of the World Championship once in the next three years.
The Power’s last TV major win was just over two years ago now, when he won the 2014 Grand Slam of Darts, but the 56-year-old’s outlook on darts has changed.
“I want to enjoy it all now because I’m slowing down now,” Taylor said.
“The schedule’s busier and I find the travelling harder, but this has been my life now for over 25 years.
“I’m looking to relax and enjoy my life and I’m coming towards the end of my career.
“I’ll still play in the events I’ve qualified for and that I’m invited to, but away from that I’m slowing down now.
“Life changes when you get into your 50s and this is my time – somewhere down the line you have to call it a day and this is the start of it.
“I’ve got grandkids and I’ll be able to spend more time with them and do some normal things again, like going away for three or four holidays a year and enjoying things a bit more because I’ll have more time.
“I’m looking forward to it. I’m ready for what we call a normal life, where I’m not sitting on motorways every week and staying in hotels and having a bit of time at home.
“I’ve earned the right to sit back a little bit now and let the others take over.
“I don’t want to be 60 or 70-years-old still on TV, I want to do other things now and have a normal life.”
After relinquishing third seed for this year’s World Championship to Peter Wright, Taylor finds himself in the toughest quarter of the 72-player draw.
A tricky clash with Belgium’s Kim Huybrechts could await Taylor in the third round, with Adrian Lewis and Raymond van Barneveld two of his possible opponents in the quarter-finals.
Before that, Taylor will be fully focused on his first assignment at the Alexandra Palace: John Bowles or David Platt in the first round on December 18.
“I’ve got the winner of two players so I don’t really know who I’m going to play yet, whether it’s John Bowles or David Platt,” he said.
“David’s been around on the circuit for a while before he moved to Australia and I know he’s good, and John’s done really well to qualify.
“It’s two good players, don’t get me wrong, so it all depends who gets through, but I’ll be ready.”
Although 2016 will not go down as one of Taylor’s most trophy- laden years of his illustrious career, it has certainly not been without its success.
In June, Taylor teamed up with Lewis to win the PDC World Cup of Darts for a fourth time, before coming out on top in the Austrian Darts Open seven days later.
Defeats to van Gerwen in the finals of the Premier League and World Matchplay was then followed by triumphs over the Green Machine in the Sydney Darts Masters and Champions League of Darts.
The latter of those was a particular high point in Taylor’s season, with the Power beating van Gerwen twice in two days to lift the new trophy on the BBC.
This year has seen Taylor already start to cut back on his playing schedule, with the victory in the Champions League of Darts coming after a four-week break from competition.
After missing the Players Championship Finals at the end of last month, Taylor will have also had another four weeks between competitive matches when he faces Bowles or Platt later next week.
“It was great to go into the BBC event wide awake,” he said.
“I’ve still got the game and that was probably the best I’ve played all year to be honest.
“At times this year it’s been great, and the Champions League was a real highlight for me, as was winning in Sydney again.
“A couple of the finals this year I could have won quite easily.
“I’ve just missed a few doubles and he didn’t, and I’ve let him off.
“It’s just a matter of going in there fit and healthy and ready for it, that’s all it is for me now.”
Whether Taylor does go on to lift the Sid Waddell Trophy one more time, either in 2017 or 2018, or not, his achievements and contribution to darts have left a legacy which will never be forgotten.
As van Gerwen goes in search for a 44th tournament victory in the space of two years, it is clear to see who the favourite is to walk away with the record £350,000 prize, but Taylor can never be written off.