Ian White secured his first Players Championship title since June 2018 courtesy of an emphatic 8-3 victory over James Wade at Players Championship Eight in Barnsley on Sunday afternoon.
‘The Diamond’ has been posting some mammoth averages on the Pro Tour with little reward over recent weeks, although the Stoke-on-Trent star boasted an incredible tournament average of 102.50 and crashed in six ton-plus averages en route to clinching his 13th PDC ranking title.
White dominated the vast majority of Sunday’s showpiece against Wade, averaging 102.10 to his opponent’s 88.30 and the elder statesman was first to a finish in ten of the eleven legs played, yet it was Wade who drew first blood – courtesy of four missed darts at double from White.
The world number 11 fired back with finishes of 80 and 71 followed by a 14-darter to move 3-1 ahead, although Wade reduced the arrears with a clinical 80 kill on tops after White had frittered away three more opportunities for a 4-1 buffer.
Nevertheless, the Stoke star was monopolising the scoring stakes and having converted his second 71 outshot of the final, brilliant 13 and 12-dart legs moved him into a seemingly unassailable 6-2 advantage.
The nine-time major champion produced his best leg of the moment in leg nine, taking out an effortless two-dart 85 combination for an 11-dart hold, but this simply delayed the inevitable as White picked out a delightful 105 checkout to move to the cusp, before sealing the deal with a 14-dart break.
It’s remarkable to think that this is White’s first Players Championship crown for almost two years, particularly when he’s fired in 16 ton-plus averages in his last 19 games, however his latest triumph will see him leapfrog Dave Chisnall and return to the world’s top ten.
The 49-year-old recorded successive 6-4 wins over William Borland and Diogo Portela to kick off Sunday’s proceedings, before posting a sublime 111.30 average in defeating John Henderson 6-3, with his winning legs coming in 14, 11, 13, 13, 15 and 12 darts.
White then eased past recent Premier League ‘challenger’ Stephen Bunting to set up a showdown with another St Helen’s ace in the shape of Dave Chisnall and White ran riot – averaging 109.30 and firing in a brace of 11 and 12-dart legs to defeat the five-time major finalist 6-4.
Having registered five ton-topping averages en route to the semi-finals, White produced his poorest performance of the afternoon against Kim Huybrechts, who whitewashed world champion Peter Wright before seeing off Michael Smith to reach his first Pro Tour semi-final since May 2018.
‘The Diamond’ averaged a paltry 89 but still recovered from 4-3 down to reel off four consecutive legs and beat the Belgian, whilst his comprehensive win over Wade saw him scoop the £10,000 top prize and his eighth Players Championship title in the process.
Wade was denied a first PDC title since September but it was a fine weekend for ‘The Machine’, who ironically defeated White en route to reaching the semi-finals of Saturday’s event and the nine-time major winner produced some eye-catching displays of his own.
The 36-year-old opened up with a comfortable 6-3 win over former BDO number one Wesley Harms, before averaging 111 and 103 in overcoming Jason Lowe and Ciaran Teehan respectively.
Wade then accounted for Josh Payne and Keegan Brown in closely-fought affairs to set up a clash with Derk Telnekes – appearing in back-to-back Pro Tour semi-finals. However, despite pocketing £6,000 for his exploits this weekend, the young Dutchman was brushed aside 7-2 by a clinical Wade.
There were a number of surprise early exits in Barnsley, as three Premier League stars bowed out at the first hurdle. Michael van Gerwen suffered a shock first round exit against Maik Kuivenhoven, whilst Saturday’s winner Nathan Aspinall lost out to Madars Razma at the same stage.
Two-time world champion Gary Anderson also lost his opener against former PDC World Championship finalist Andy Hamilton, as Rob Cross, Daryl Gurney, Wright and Glen Durrant all departed the tournament before the quarter-final stage.
In addition to this, 19 Tour Card holders pulled out of Sunday’s event due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Among the absentees were Grand Slam champion Gerwyn Price and former major winners Mensur Suljovic, Adrian Lewis and Krzysztof Ratajski.
Photo Credit: Lawrence Lustig/PDC