Bookies are backing in Simon Whitlock at about 1.50 to break his hoodoo against Andy Hamilton and play in the Grand Final of the Premier League of Darts this Friday morning.
The Premier League finals present themselves as an opportunity for the Wizard to achieve something that has so far eluded him – a major PDC (or BDO) title. After 10 years in Britain of being so near yet so far, Whitlock and his fans will feel that a title is well overdue.
Whitlock’s first roadblock comes in the form of Andy Hamilton, a man that he has not beaten since he capitulated from a 15-8 lead in last year’s World Matchplay.
His recent record against Hamilton would suggest that the 2.50 for the Hammer to win is quite generous.
Whitlock’s overall form tells a different story. He finished the Premier League season in 2nd with a comfortable 3 point buffer. In his final regular season match he saw off world champion Adrian Lewis who was fighting for his own finals spot.
A demon that he will have to overcome is his finishing. Previously labelled as one of the best finishers in the game, Whitlock’s doubling has faltered somewhat of late and reeked of inconsistency. His percentage on the doubles for the season was only 36%, well below the other 3 finalists who were all in the 40%’s. Noticeably, these missed doubles have frequently been on the D16, followed by D8. The wizard ought to be focussing a lot of time this week refining these out shots – or replanning to avoid them.
Should Whitlock get past Hamilton, he will likely face darting legend Phil Taylor, who is in the form of his life. Or if there is a stunning upset, James Wade will be his opponent, the man who knocked him out of the Premier League semi-finals in 2010. The Wizard will have to produce his best form to win what will be two incredibly tough games, but he is most definitely capable and now is a better opportunity than ever.
So prepare to wake up at the early time of 4am on Friday morning, or set your recorder or IQ, because this is a morning not to be missed by Australian sports fans. Come on the Wizard of Oz!