Phil Taylor enjoyed a dream return to European Tour action by defeating Michael Smith 6-4 to win the 2016 Austrian Darts Open at the Multiversum in Vienna on Sunday evening. ‘The Power’ averaged 97.34 and hit seven maximums to seal the fourth European Tour title of his illustrious career.
Smith, a three-time European Tour winner himself, battled valiantly but was unable to produce his best darts, averaging 92.82 in Sunday’s curtain-raiser. Despite this, ‘Bully-Boy’ started the final strongly, with a commanding 13-dart hold.
Smith hit his first maximum in the second leg, but was unable to register a dart at double for an 80 outshot, allowing Taylor to post D16 for 1-1. Taylor opened up the third leg with a maximum of his own, before missing three darts at double. Nevertheless, this error wasn’t punished, and Taylor eventually broke after Smith failed to convert a 75 checkout.
However, Smith responded fantastically in the fourth leg to secure an immediate break back. The former World-Youth champion registered successive 140’s, before nailing D12 to break throw inside 13-darts.
The pair traded maximums in the fifth leg and both missed one dart at double for 84 and 74 checkouts respectively, but it was Taylor who converted D4 for a third consecutive break of throw to wrestle back the initiative.
The 55-year-old appeared poised to establish a two-leg cushion for the first time in the contest, but after Taylor squandered five darts at double, Smith restored parity once more by converting D12 at the fifth attempt, to secure the fourth break in succession.
Taylor’s frustration was compounded in the seventh leg. The 16-time world champion hit two maximums but didn’t get a shot at double, after Smith converted a majestic 130 finish on the bull for a 12-dart hold. The 55-year-old’s scoring power continued to flourish however, as he hit his fifth maximum and completed an 11-darter to level up at 4-4.
Taylor was hitting the T20 with unrelenting precision, and the Stoke-on-Trent star registered his sixth maximum and completed an 87 finish on tops for a 12-darter and a precious break of throw in the following leg.
‘The Power’ fired in his seventh 180 of the final to close in on victory in the tenth leg, but the world number three stumbled towards the finishing line, spurning two match darts at D16. Smith had an opportunity to break back and force a deciding leg with a 106 finish, but he wired an attempt at tops to stay afloat.
Taylor required no further invitation to seal victory, returning to the oche to convert D16 for a 19-dart leg, to scoop the £25,000 winner’s cheque. More importantly, this confirms Taylor’s spot in October’s European Championships, as the competition’s qualifying criteria relies solely on participation and prize money attained in European Tour events.
Earlier in the evening, Taylor eased past Stephen Bunting to secure a semi-final spot. ‘The Power’ averaged 100.8 and hit 46% on the doubles to punish an out-of-sorts Bunting, who could only muster an 88 average. Taylor led 5-0, before Bunting held throw and took out 102 to reel off successive legs.
Nevertheless, any faint hopes of a remarkable revival were quashed in the eighth leg, as Taylor punished an average leg from ‘The Bullet’ to seal a comfortable victory in 13-darts. In the last four, Taylor faced Kyle Anderson, who ended Michael van Gerwen’s supremacy on the European Tour in 2016 with a masterful display of bullseye finishing.
Van Gerwen led the Aussie 4-2 and appeared on course for a routine win, but Anderson reduced the arrears to 4-3 with a fine 121 checkout on the bull. Moments later, ‘The Original’ restored parity by hitting the bullseye for a 72 finish, before the Aussie ace hit the bull for the third leg in succession, to complete another stunning 121 outshot.
Anderson was throwing magnificently and Van Gerwen simply had no answer to his opponent’s brilliance. Despite MvG posting successive visits of 140 and 139, Anderson posted D10 for a 13-darter, to clinch his fourth straight leg and in the process, the biggest victory of his career.
‘The Original’ was vying for a place in his maiden PDC Pro Tour final and he appeared poised to do so by storming into a 4-1 lead against Taylor. Anderson almost went 5-1 ahead, but narrowly missed D20 for a 151 checkout. This appeared to galvanise Taylor, who reeled off three legs in succession to draw level at four apiece.
However, Anderson responded strongly, hitting a 177 and closing out a 15-dart hold to move within a leg of victory. Taylor refused to relent though, forcing a last-leg decider after hitting two maximums en route to an 11-darter.
Anderson had the advantage of throw in the decider, but Taylor snatched victory at the death, pinning D7 for a 14-dart break after Anderson had missed one match dart at D16 for a 91 checkout. It was a thrilling spectacle, with Anderson averaging 105.14 to Taylor’s 104.2, but the 16-time world champion’s exemplary timing proved decisive.
Michael Smith’s progress was also far from serene. In his quarter-final, Smith overcame the unseeded Nigel Heydon in a topsy-turvy contest. Heydon had whitewashed Ian White 6-0 in the last 16, and stole an early march against Smith by breaking throw in the third leg.
‘Bully-Boy’ responded immediately and levelled up proceedings with a 78 checkout, before winning the next two legs to establish a two-leg cushion. Despite this, ‘The Undertaker’ remained unperturbed, and recorded finishes of 66, 25 and 124 to move within a leg of the last four.
Yet ultimately, Heydon was unable to cross the finishing line, missing one match dart in both the tenth and eleventh leg, allowing Smith to edge through and keep alive his hopes of winning a fourth European Tour title.
Smith faced Peter Wright’s conqueror Terry Jenkins in the semi-finals and had to fend off a valiant fightback from ‘The Raging Bull’ to seal his spot in the final. Smith coasted into a 5-1 lead, but missed three match darts in the seventh leg.
Jenkins hit D8 to stay alive, before completing a regulation 68 checkout to register his third leg of the contest. Terry continued to battle, winning his third straight leg to reduce the deficit to a solitary leg, but Smith eventually got over the winning line with D5.
Austrian Darts Open
Sunday June 12
Evening Session (7pm-11pm local time, 6pm-10pm BST)
Kyle Anderson 6-4 Michael van Gerwen
Phil Taylor 6-2 Stephen Bunting
Terry Jenkins 6-4 Peter Wright
Michael Smith 6-5 Nigel Heydon
Phil Taylor 6-5 Kyle Anderson
Michael Smith 6-4 Terry Jenkins
Phil Taylor 6-4 Michael Smith