For the last two decades, during a week every July, the Winter Gardens in Blackpool swaps its ballroom gowns and waltzing songs for thousands of blokes in fancy dress and the dulcet tones of ‘Chase The Sun’.
The World Matchplay has rolled into the seaside town every year since 1994, where 32 of the hottest talents in darts go toe-to-toe on the oche for the £100k prize. It is regarded as the second biggest darts event of the year – behind the World Championships – and is one that Phil Taylor has dominated.
But is The Power worth backing at 3/1 for a 16th World Matchplay Crown?
The three reasons for backing a Blackpool Power Surge
- Taylor’s record
It is simply crazy. He has won this title 15 times in 21 years. But while you try to wrap your mind around that, take a look at his record since the turn of the century. 72 matches, 70 wins and just two defeats. Terry Jenkins and John Part are the only two men to have beaten Phil Taylor at the World Matchplay since 2000. It is a phenomenal run of victories.
- The Form Book
The attraction for many punters is the format of this competition. A straight best of 19 legs to begin with – going up to best of 35 legs for the final – means that the best player on the day tends to prevail, and it’s a case of form and consistency rather than a little luck here or there. Taylor’s form coming into the competition is fairly tidy. After the disappointment of missing out on the Premier League play-offs for the first time in 11 years, the Power bounced back making the final of the Dubai Masters and then winning the World Cup of Darts and the Japan Masters. That’s three finals in the last three TV events.
- Blackpool Rocks
‘I love Blackpool. It’s my favourite tournament. I’ve bought a place up here because I absolutely love it. It’s like my own Las Vegas and I love the Winter Gardens venue. I always play well here.’ Phil Taylor, July 2014
The Power has made no secret his love for Blackpool, and in particular the Winter Gardens. Not only is his winning record sublime, but this is the venue where he hit his first ever televised nine-darter – against Chris Mason in 2002 – pocketing himself £100k in the process. The Power bagged another perfect leg at the Winter gardens last year against Michael Smith on the way to his seventh consecutive Matchplay victory. Make no bones about it, this is Taylor’s home of darts.
The three reasons for backing a Power cut
- Strength and Depth
Long gone on the days when Phil Taylor use to swashbuckler his way through tournaments with just one or two live contenders in his way. Michael van Gerwen, Gary Anderson (below), Adrian Lewis, James Wade, Robert Thornton and Simon Whitlock have all won Major events in the last few years. Peter Wright, Dave Chisnall, Ian White, Michael Smith and Ronnie Baxter all have victories over Phil Taylor in the last two months, while Stephen Bunting, Kim Huybrechts and the returning Jelle Klaasen can all pose a threat on their day.
- The Poor Draw
The biggest thing against Taylor looks like the potential draw. This is how it could play out for the Power after his first round clash with John Henderson:
Second Round: Raymond van Barneveld (Five-time World Champion, 2010 World Matchplay finalist)
Quarter Final: Dave Chisnall (World Number 7, 2015 Premier League semi-finalist)
Semi Final: Gary Anderson (World Number 3, Reigning World Champion and Premier League Champion)
Final: Michael van Gerwen (World Number 1, 2014 World Champion and last year’s World Matchplay runner-up)
- A Major Wobble?
There have been five ‘Major’ darts events since last year’s World Matchplay, and Phil Taylor has gone out in the quarter finals or earlier in four of them. James Wade, Stephen Bunting, Gary Anderson (twice) and Peter Wright have all beaten the Power in Major events since Taylor’s 2014 World Matchplay victory. Whether it’s a case of Taylor dipping below his incredible best, the rest of the field catching up, or a combination of the two, it’s a cause for concern.
We don’t know who is going to be crowned World Matchplay champion 2015 -nor do we know whether Phil Taylor, the man who has dominated the sport for the guts of two decades -can overcome a fiercely strong field at odds of 3/1.
What we do know is that his record at the Winter Gardens is phenomenal and we wouldn’t exactly be rushing to oppose the Power…