TAYLOR PUTS ON VINTAGE DISPLAY IN HIS WILLIAM HILL WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP OPENER
PHIL TAYLOR'S bid to be crowned as World Champion for a 17th time began with a comfortable first round victory over David Platt as Ian White, Mark Webster, Chris Dobey, Alan Norris and Daryl Gurney progressed at the William Hill Darts Championship on Sunday.
Taylor averaged almost 102 in a straight sets success over Oceanic Masters winner Platt, who defeated John Bowles 2-0 in their preliminary round contest before succumbing to the Stoke great.
Number four seed Taylor set his sights on a reunion with the Sid Waddell Trophy, which he last won in 2013, by easing past Platt with a 102 average.
"I've got a really good chance of winning it this year," said Taylor, whose second round opponent will be Kevin Painter in a repeat of the classic 2004 final.
"I feel really confident for the first time in a long time. I've been doing things right and I've done a few things differently to prepare.
"A lot of people have been writing me off but I really think I've got a much better chance than people think. I played okay tonight and I'm looking forward to the rest of the tournament."
Last year's Alexandra Palace quarter-finalist Norris, meanwhile, came back from the brink against Greece's John Michael to book his place in the second round with a 3-2 triumph.
Number 21 Norris had to come from two sets behind to overcome the Southern Europe Qualifier as he set up a last 32 clash with either Raymond van Barneveld or Robbie Green.
"That's why you should never give up," said Norris, who won the last European Tour event of 2016 and hit a nine-darter at last month's Players Championship Finals.
"In set play you have to hang in there because a run of three or four legs can change everything. I struggled early on but credit where it is due to John, he played well.
"I had a good year last year. I love it here but I thought I was going home so I'm really happy."
Northern Ireland's Gurney, meanwhile, was impressive in his 3-1 win against Jermaine Wattimena, landing five 180s and averaging almost 97 as he moved safely through.
"I'm very pleased with the average and the performance," said Gurney, who reached a European Tour final in 2016.
"I'm getting better year on year and I'm playing well. I've been practising really hard and trying to get my head right for this and it's a very good start."
Chris Dobey enjoyed a dream World Championship debut in the Sunday afternoon session by defeating Justin Pipe in their first round clash.
The 26-year-old continued the progress he has made in 2016, which included reaching the final of a Players Championship event, by hitting three finishes of over 100 in a 3-1 success over 26th seed Pipe.
"It's what dreams are made of," said Dobey, who also qualified for the European Championship, Grand Slam of Darts and Players Championship Finals this year.
"I was so relieved to get over the finishing line. I know how well I can play and I've got more in the tank but it was always going to be hard against Justin.
"I just need to keep playing my game and I'll play it match by match. Everybody wants their name on that trophy and I'm really up for it."
Fabulous finishing saw former Lakeside Champion Mark Webster move safely through to round two, as he hit nine doubles from 11 attempts to see off Joe Murnan in straight sets.
The Welsh left-hander, a two-time Alexandra Palace semi-finalist, has struggled with technique problems over the last couple of years but produced a polished performance to win through.
"I'm pleased with how it went," said former Premier League star Webster, who reached the last 16 last year.
"The first round is always hard. It is almost like a completely different tournament. You just want to be in for Christmas so I'm happy I've done that.
"I've been trying different things with my throw and the rhythm was great. My doubles went really well but I know I need to improve my scoring but overall I'm happy."
Ian White was also a 3-0 winner against Kevin Simm, who had come through his preliminary round game against Philippines Qualifier Gilbert Ulang.
Two of the three sets went all five legs but White showed his class to set up a second round clash with Jonny Clayton, with a 130 checkout on the bull being the highlight for the number 14 seed.
The first round continues on Monday, with two-time World Champion Adrian Lewis beginning his bid to reclaim the title against Sweden's Magnus Caris, while Mervyn King takes on Steve West and Joe Cullen meets either China's Qiang Sun or World Youth Champion Corey Cadby, the 2016 Australian Grand Prix champion.
The William Hill World Darts Championship will be broadcast live on the Sky Sports Darts channel.
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William Hill World Darts Championship
Sunday December 18
Kevin Simm 2-0 Gilbert Ulang (P)
Justin Pipe (26) 1-3 Chris Dobey
Mark Webster (25) 3-0 Joe Murnan
Ian White (14) 3-0 Kevin Simm
John Bowles 0-2 David Platt (P)
Daryl Gurney (24) 3-1 Jermaine Wattimena
Alan Norris (21) 3-2 John Michael
Phil Taylor (4) 3-0 David Platt
Preliminary Round - Best of three sets
First Round - Best of five sets
Follow live stats & see match stats throughout the event via the official PDC Live Scores website - CLICK HERE
Kevin Simm 2-0 Gilbert Ulang (P)
Simm took the first set despite his opponent firing in two 180s. The left-hander took out 100 in the fifth and deciding leg.
The second set also went the distance as Simm got his only maximum. He went on to edge it by landing double nine to move into the first round.
Justin Pipe 1-3 Chris Dobey
Dobey pegged double top to win the first leg and punished Pipe for five missed darts at double in the second by taking out 71. Pipe finished 76 but Dobey took the set on double top.
Dobey won the first two legs before Pipe's third maximum helped him level. But Dobey won the following leg with a 101 finish to double his lead.
Pipe took a two-leg lead but Dobey took out 49 and 40 to level. The Taunton man punished his opponent for two match darts by cleaning up 78 to stay in the match.
Dobey took out successive finishes of 100 and 105 but Pipe won the following two legs before the 26-year-old took out 74 to seal a debut win.
Mark Webster 3-0 Joe Murnan
Murnan went ahead with a 68 checkout but Webster responded with finishes of 60, 65 and 70 as he took the set.
Webster increased his perfect record on doubles to six out of six attempts with finishes of 129, 88 and 59, with Murnan taking the third leg with a 56 checkout to no avail.
Murnan landed his second 180 and took out 70 to take the first leg but Webster pinned double top to make it 7/7 on doubles. Murnan moved ahead again by pinning double four. Webster finally missed darts at doubles in the following leg but recovered on double fibe before cleaning up 84 to seal the win.
Ian White 3-0 Kevin Simm
A 180 helped Simm win the opening leg but White took the next three to move ahead, finishing 58 to seal the set.
White hit 180s in each of the first two legs, which were shared before the number 14 seed landed tops to move ahead. Simm found the same bed to level but missed three darts to win the set and White capitalised in style with a 130 checkout on the bull.
Four legs were shared before White finished the job on 58.
John Bowles 0-2 David Platt (P)
All five legs went with the throw as a 180 from Platt helped him win the set decider.
Bowles took out 110 in the first leg as the first four again went with the throw after the former Rugby player missed a dart to break in the fourth leg. He was punished in sensational fashion when Platt pulled out a fabulous 156 checkout to win.
Daryl Gurney 3-1 Jermaine Wattimena
The pair exchanged 180s in the opening leg, which Gurney won on double one. He then landed double five before to break before sealing the set on tops.
Gurney took out 76 to break in the first leg and held on double 16 before Wattimena finally got a leg on the board. Gurney landed a second 180 before pinning double six to increase his advantage to two sets.
Gurney took out 74 but Wattimena won three straight legs to keep his hopes alive, including a crucial 90 finish to break in the third.
Wattimena defied a 180 from Gurney to take the first leg but that was to be the last the Dutchman won as Gurney took the next three, adding his fifth maximum in the process.
Alan Norris 3-2 John Michael
Michael broke Norris' throw by finishing 52 and he took out 60 to double his lead before a brilliant 141 checkout gave him the first set.
Michael took out 93 before Norris finally got a leg on the board by landing double one. He hit the same double to move a leg ahead but the Souther Europe Qualifier winner took out 78 to level before punishing his opponent for a missed set dart by sinking tops.
Norris pegged double nine but Michael levelled with a nice 80 out-shot. The next two legs were shared and Norris pinned a crucial double five in the decider to halve the deficit.
Norris went into a two-leg lead but Michael hit his fourth 180 and took the next two but last year's quarter-finalist pegged tops to force a deciding set.
Norris took out 60 to lead the match for the first time but Michael took out 106 to level. Norris finished the job though, landing double 16 and double ten to move into the second round.
Phil Taylor v David Platt
Platt missed two darts to win the first and third legs but Taylor took all three by finishing 40, 65 and 20.
Taylor finished 62 before Platt got a leg on the board. The 16-time World Champion then pegged double top and completed an 11-darter with an 80 checkout to move within a set of victory.
Platt won the first leg on double ten but three 180s in the next three legs saw Taylor close out a comfortable win.