Daryl Gurney clinched his maiden PDC major title with a thrilling deciding-set victory over former world finalist Simon Whitlock in a thrilling World Grand Prix final at the Citywest Hotel, Dublin, on Saturday evening.
‘The Wizard’ led 2-0 and 4-3 at one stage, but Gurney fought back to prevail in an incredibly dramatic affair on home soil. The Northern Irishman averaged 88.50, landed eight maximums and converted seven ton-plus checkouts to triumph, as Whitlock was edged out after averaging 83.53 and crashing in thirteen maximums.
‘Super-Chin’ reached the semi-finals at both the UK Open and World Matchplay earlier in the year, but after coming through the semi-final hurdle he continued his dominant record against Whitlock to scoop the £100,000 winner’s prize, which catapults him up to sixth on the PDC Order of Merit.
Gurney kicked off proceedings with a clinical 72 outshot, before doubling his lead with a 13-dart hold. Whitlock then registered his first maximum and found D18 to open his account, before Gurney crumbled. The Northern Irishman squandered nine set darts across two legs and the Australian eventually pegged D1 to steal the opener.
However, the roles were reversed early in set two. ‘The Wizard’ missed three darts at double to hold throw and Gurney conjured up a majestic 156 outshot to break. Whitlock then responded by following up a brace of maximums by hitting D6, but further misses from the Aussie allowed Gurney to record a third straight break via D10.
Nevertheless, the topsy-turvy nature of the contest continued. The former European Championship winner fired in a 14-dart leg for yet another break of throw, before posting his fifth maximum and overcoming some double-trouble to pin D9 and move two sets ahead.
Gurney responded strongly however. He produced a nonchalant 110 checkout to draw first blood in set three, and although he was punished for two missed doubles in the following leg, he secured an important hold via D8, before dispatching a fine 126 checkout on the bullseye to seal his first set.
This shifted the momentum and Gurney extended his winning sequence to four legs as he won the opening two legs of the fourth set. Whitlock stopped the rot with an unorthodox 70 outshot culminating on D9, but ‘Super-Chin’ defied a sixth 180 from Whitlock to produce a brilliant 95 outshot (Bull, S13, D16) to level up the final.
Having restored parity at two apiece, Gurney appeared to brush past Whitlock with his shoulder during his celebration. As a result, the Northern Irishman was issued with a warning for misconduct by the PDC tournament director at the interval.
Whitlock nailed a clinical 90 finish on D5 for an early break in set five, but Gurney’s response was emphatic. He dispatched successive finishes of 110 and 104 to seize the advantage, before Whitlock followed his seventh maximum with a 13-dart hold to force a set decider.
However, the Australian was unable to maintain his composure in a critical fifth leg. Both men made key errors, but Whitlock squandered three darts at double for the set, as Gurney landed D16 to secure his third straight set.
‘The Wizard’ claimed the opening two legs of a scrappy sixth set as he attempted to restore parity, but Gurney fired in a two-dart 100 combination finish to stay alive, before forcing yet another set-decider with a 13-darter via D10.
Yet this time it was the Derry ace who missed an opportunity. He wired D8 for a 92 outshot and Whitlock showed his class; effortlessly dispatching a two-dart 98 kill to restore parity at three apiece.
The pair exchanged 14-dart holds to kick off the seventh set, before Whitlock wired D14 for a 135 outshot. However, the 48-year-old followed up his ninth maximum by hitting D10 to hold throw, before capitalising on nerves from Gurney in the final leg of the set to round-off a 15-dart break via D8, to move to the brink of his second PDC major title.
Gurney fought back with a clinical two-dart 68 checkout for an instant break early in the eighth. Yet after he wired the bull for a maximum 170 outshot, Whitlock followed up his twelfth maximum with a nerveless 80 finish to reassert his advantage. The Australian was just two legs away from a sensational victory, but he was unable to close it out.
Despite ‘The Wizard’ piling in his thirteenth maximum, Gurney showed incredible nerve to pin D16 with his last dart in hand for an imperative break. The Northern Irishman’s combination finishing had been lethal throughout the evening and that continued as he then sank a brilliant 96 kill to force a ninth and final set.
There had been so many twists and turns throughout the final, but ‘Super-Chin’ held his nerve impressively during a dramatic deciding set. He hit the front via D8, but Whitlock levelled with an astonishing 112 finish (S5, T19, Bull) which he salvaged sublimely after a wayward first dart.
Nevertheless, the former world finalist failed to pin a starting double in his first visit throughout the final set, which was ruthlessly punished. Gurney dispatched an unorthodox 112 finish of his own (T20, D20, D6) to move to the cusp of victory, before clinching the title via D10, which prompted him to sink to his knees with sheer elation.
The Northern Irish ace reflected: “I’m lost for words – I can’t believe it, I really can’t. It feels better than anything else I’ve ever felt in my life. Dreams do come true and this is a dream.
“I wanted to come up here tonight and play my best game but giving Simon the first set got me more determined. I still had the belief in me that I could come back when I was 2-0 down.”
Whitlock displayed a huge amount of class and grace in defeat and admitted he was very satisfied with his performance throughout the week. It was his first appearance in a major final since July 2013, which subsequently moves him up to 12th in the world- his highest ranking position for almost three years.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
2017 Unibet World Grand Prix
Saturday October 7
Unibet World Grand Prix Final
Daryl Gurney 5-4 Simon Whitlock