The question of who will win the 2012 World Darts Championship could well be a very open, with a long list of answers. Really, though, it comes down to just two – either Phil Taylor is playing well, or he isn’t.
At times, the 15-time World Champion and winner of various other events has been off the boil and losing a little too easily. Even when he was making the finals of events, he couldn’t quite close things out, particularly on multiple occasions in the Players Championship events throughout the second half of the year. But after winning the Cash Converters Players Championship Finals a fortnight ago in such style, it’s hard to argue against someone with such form.
Having won that, the Premier League title and the World Matchplay, he has had as good a year as anyone when it comes down to it and I feel he’ll be ready to swat aside any of the strong challengers on the Tour this year. Take his semi-final clash with Simon Whitlock of Australia, for instance. Such a strong competitor, but an 11-2 loss to Taylor just goes to show how ready he is. Winning seven straight legs in a row in the final was the final cherry on a very big cake.
Someone who will be hoping Taylor brings his 2011 WC form, where he went out in the second round, is double world champion Adrian Lewis. There are plenty out there who think he shouldn’t have won in 2011, barely scraping past the first round and getting lucky again in the semi-final against James Wade. It’s been an up an down year for him and an angry Players Championship was followed by the birth of his child, but there won’t be many who think he can jump into the record books with an unprecedented third trophy in a row.
Who else, then, can claim the trophy if Taylor doesn’t bring his ‘A’ game to “Ally Pally”? Unfortunately for us, most of the opposition is from overseas in a sport that’s renowned for being Britain-centric. The man that people may fear the most after the year he’s had is Dutchman Michael van Gerwen. “Mighty Mike”, the youngest player to ever win a televised tournament, has being reaching the final stages of a whole host of events in 2012 and this could be the major event he needs to start becoming one of the sport’s greats. Simon Whitlock, Australia’s best player, is also a strong adversary, although he will be hoping his semi-final loss to Taylor isn’t still playing on his mind. Don’t count old dog Raymond van Barneveld, victor in the Grand Slam of Darts, or Kim Huybrechts, who more than matched Taylor for a period.
There’s little in the way of home threat, although Andy Hamilton was just one leg away from thumping (metaphorically, of course) Taylor in the Players Championship. Gary Anderson, Wes Newton and James Wade all have a chance but they need to arrest some alarming form in which only Anderson has reached the quarter-finals of any recent events.
All this is irrelevant if Phil Taylor is up for the challenge. He’ll be keen to end a two year wait to claim the trophy, but the overall standard in the field is higher than ever. The winner could come from anyone out of 8-10 top players and I wouldn’t be too surprised if there’s a new champion this time around.