REIGNING CHAMPION Phil Taylor opened the 2013 Championship League Darts season with a nine-dart finish and victory in Group One of the internet-streamed event, defeating Adrian Lewis 6-2 in Tuesday's final.
The World Champion returned from a three-week break since his triumph in the Sydney Darts Masters in winning form to book his place in next month's Winners Group of the £200,000 event.
Taylor topped the league table following the eight-man round-robin phase, edging out Adrian Lewis on Leg Difference after the pair both won five of their seven games.
Taylor also hit a nine-dart finish - his third in this competition, 12th in a broadcasted event and 16th in a PDC tournament - in his league clash with Lewis, who missed double 18 for a nine-darter of his own before going on to win that showdown 6-5.
However, it was Taylor who took the spoils when they met in the final with an unstoppable display, as he followed up a 109 average in his 6-2 semi-final win with a 102 mean score for his win by the same scoreline against the European Champion.
Taylor finished 80 on tops to win the opening leg, and the pair traded 180s in the next three only for the 53-year-old to win each as he moved 4-0 up, producing some clinical finishing on double 16.
Lewis took out 143 to hit back, but missed double top for a 145 checkout in the next as Taylor hit double eight to move 5-1 up.
Lewis produced a superb 11-dart leg as he kept his hopes alive with a 180 and an 81 finish to pull back a second leg, but he was unable to land double 12 for a 144 finish in the next as Taylor stepped in to finish 76 to seal his spot in October's Winners Group.
"It's fantastic," said Taylor. "I'm pleased to get through because Wes reminded me at the start of our semi-final that he won Group One last year,
"I enjoy this tournament and especially today. I played steady darts and it was a tough challenge because I've not been practising as hard as I should do. I've taken a holiday [in Tenerife] and relaxed a bit, so I'm pleased.
"Adrian played superbly and he missed double 18 for a nine-darter against me but his energy seemed to drop a little bit during the final. I got to 4-0 up and he started to come back at me, and he showed some class."
Lewis had produced a brilliant display of his own to win his semi-final with Dave Chisnall 6-2, with the pair sharing the opening four legs before the Stoke ace hit seven perfect darts in successive legs - twice missing double 19 on a 141 finish for a nine-dart leg, settling instead for a pair of 11-darters as he went on to reach the final.
Chisnall produced some exceptional darts on the day, hitting an immense 39 180s in eight matches, while Newton joined him in reaching the last four by the narrowest of margins ahead of Andy Hamilton, who missed out on Legs Won Against Throw.
Hamilton had won his opening three games before then losing a trio of contests, and his 6-4 win over Simon Whitlock in their final league game was just not enough to see him secure a semi-final place.
Michael van Gerwen joined Hamilton in winning four games on the day only to miss out on the Play-Offs, but they return for Group Two as Whitlock and 2010 champion James Wade were eliminated.
Wade lost his opening six matches before gaining a consolation win over Lewis in his final game, paying the price for some agonisingly close missed doubles earlier in the day, while Whitlock's only victory came against the left-hander.
Justin Pipe, Robert Thornton and Kevin Painter all come in to join the five survivors from Group One in Wednesday's Group Two at Crondon Park GC in Essex.
Prize money is paid at £50 per leg won in the league phase as the eight players meet each other once, before prize money rises to £100 per leg in the Play-Offs.
2013 Championship League Darts
Group One Results
|Board One||Board Two|
|Phil Taylor 6-2 Michael van Gerwen||Dave Chisnall 3-6 Wes Newton|
|James Wade 4-6 Andy Hamilton||Adrian Lewis 6-1 Simon Whitlock|
|Wes Newton 2-6 Phil Taylor||Michael van Gerwen 2-6 Dave Chisnall|
|Simon Whitlock 6-1 James Wade||Andy Hamilton 6-4 Adrian Lewis|
|Wes Newton 5-6 Adrian Lewis||Phil Taylor 4-6 Andy Hamilton|
|Simon Whitlock 4-6 Dave Chisnall||Michael van Gerwen 6-4 James Wade|
|Adrian Lewis 6-5 Phil Taylor||Wes Newton 6-5 Andy Hamilton|
|Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Simon Whitlock||Dave Chisnall 6-1 James Wade|
|Dave Chisnall 3-6 Adrian Lewis||James Wade 4-6 Phil Taylor|
|Andy Hamilton 4-6 Michael van Gerwen||Simon Whitlock 4-6 Wes Newton|
|James Wade 4-6 Wes Newton||Michael van Gerwen 4-6 Adrian Lewis|
|Andy Hamilton 0-6 Dave Chisnall||Phil Taylor 6-3 Simon Whitlock|
|Dave Chisnall 5-6 Phil Taylor||Wes Newton 2-6 Michael van Gerwen|
|Simon Whitlock 4-6 Andy Hamilton||Adrian Lewis 4-6 James Wade|
|Phil Taylor 6-2 Wes Newton||Adrian Lewis 6-2 Dave Chisnall|
|Phil Taylor 6-2 Adrian Lewis|
Final League Table
|Michael van Gerwen||7||4||3||32||33||-1||12||£1600||8|
|Simon Whitlock (E)||7||1||6||27||36||-9||9||£1350||2|
|James Wade (E)||7||1||6||24||30||-16||8||£1200||2|