Michael van Gerwen claimed victory in the first streamed Players Championship event in PDC history, whitewashing the in-form Mensur Suljovic 6-0 in the final at the Barnsley Metrodome on Tuesday afternoon.
Van Gerwen was in magnificent form throughout the day; dropping just 13 legs in his seven matches. However, he saved his best for the final, where he fired in three maximums to dismantle Suljovic, who was appearing in his first ever Players Championship final- his third Pro Tour final this month.
Van Gerwen clinched a scrappy opening leg on D2, after Suljovic had spurned a dart at D18 to break throw. ‘The Green Machine’ then fired in his first maximum en route to breaking Suljovic’s throw in 13-darts.
The Austrian posted his first maximum as he attempted to register an instant break back, but MvG fired in another 180, before pinning D8 to establish a commanding 3-0 cushion. The Dutchman was growing in confidence and posted visits of 123, 134 and 134 in leg four, before converting 110 for a majestic 12-darter and a second break of throw.
Suljovic was desperate to avoid a whitewash and he gave himself an opportunity to break back after firing in a timely score of 170. However, ‘The Gentle’ spurned two darts at D16 and Van Gerwen nailed tops to complete a 16-dart hold of throw.
The pair recently contested the European Darts Trophy final in Muelheim which went to a deciding-leg, but this was far more one-sided. Van Gerwen produced successive visits of 180 and 170, before converting 56 in two-darts to record a magnificent victory inside 11-darts.
It was an historic day for the PDC, and Van Gerwen played an integral role. He appeared in the first ever streamed Players Championship match, as he began his campaign with a comfortable 6-3 win over Ryan Harrington. ‘The Green Machine’ then eased into round-four, by virtue of 6-2 victories over James Richardson and Jonny Clayton respectively.
In the last 16, MvG faced Adrian Lewis, who dropped just six legs in his first three matches. However, MvG was in magnificent form, firing in four maximums to whitewash the two-time world champion.
The world number one faced the in-form James Wilson in the last eight, who again reached the latter stages of a Players Championship event. ‘The Jammie Dodger’ recorded comprehensive victories over Jelle Klaasen and Gerwyn Price to reach the quarters, but Van Gerwen was too strong for Wilson, prevailing 6-2.
The Dutchman faced John Henderson in the semi-finals, after the Scot overcame fourth seed Kim Huybrechts in the last eight. Henderson had survived four match darts in his first-round clash against Jeffrey de Graaf and took advantage of his good fortune to reach the last four.
Henderson stormed into a 2-0 lead and missed one dart at tops for a double-break. Van Gerwen reeled off three successive legs to respond, but Henderson regained the initiative to lead 4-3, before ‘Mighty-Mike’ won the remaining three legs to triumph in a topsy-turvy semi-final.
On the other side of the draw, Suljovic began his campaign with comfortable victories over Robert Owen and Michael Barnard, before edging through a nervy last-leg shootout against Joe Murnan to reach the last 16.
The Austrian then produced a fine display to dump out fifteenth seed Joe Cullen 6-3, before easing past Justin Pipe 6-2 in the quarter-finals. Nevertheless, it was an excellent day for Pipe, who put himself firmly back in contention for a World Grand-Prix spot by virtue of reaching the last eight in Barnsley.
In the semi-finals, Suljovic faced arguably the performer of the day, Mick McGowan. The Irishman continued his good form from the European Darts Grand Prix last weekend, earning £3,000 by virtue of reaching the last four to put himself in pole position to qualify for the World Grand-Prix next month.
McGowan kicked off his campaign at the Metrodome by dumping out tenth seed Terry Jenkins 6-2 in the opening round. He then saw off the challenges of Andy Parsons and John Bowles to secure a place in the last 16, where he would face Vincent van der Voort.
‘The Magnet’ produced a masterful exhibition of finishing to edge out the Dutchman in a thrilling deciding-leg. McGowan converted four ton-plus checkouts of 100, 121, 124 and 128 to seal a quarter-final showdown with Mervyn King, who had seen off the likes of Simon Whitlock and Raymond van Barneveld to reach this stage.
However, ‘The King’ was unable to progress any further, as McGowan claimed a 6-4 victory to reach his first PDC ranking semi-final for a number of years.Suljovic however, proved to be an obstacle too far for the Republic of Ireland star, who delivered an inconsistent display and suffered a 6-2 defeat.
Elsewhere, fifth seed Ian White suffered an early exit in Barnsley, as he was beaten by former Lakeside world champion Christian Kist in round-one. White has won three Players Championship titles this year-all in Barnsley, although it wasn’t a happy hunting ground for ‘The Diamond’ on this occasion.
Michael Smith suffered a surprise 6-1 defeat to eventual semi-finalist John Henderson in round-two, whilst Dave Chisnall was edged out by promising youngster Ted Evetts at the same stage.
Second seed Peter Wright was beaten in his board final by five-time world champion Raymond van Barneveld. The pair met in the semi-finals of the European Darts Grand Prix in Sindelfingen last weekend, where Wright prevailed 6-2. However, Barney gained revenge on this occasion, coming through a tense last-leg decider.
Phil Taylor won’t be appearing in Barnsley this week having pulled out of the Players Championship triple-header. This leaves ‘The Power’ with just four events to secure his spot for the Players Championship finals in Minehead, as he is currently outside the top 64 of the Pro Tour Order of Merit.
However, the day belonged to Michael van Gerwen, who secured his second Players Championship title of the year- his 17th title of 2016, to close in on last year’s tally of 18. The Dutchman will have the opportunity to better that statistic as the Players Championship events continue on Wednesday and Thursday.