Simon Whitlock produced a classy display to dispatch James Wade and move into the quarter-finals of the PalmerBet Queensland Darts Masters, as three Oceanic qualifiers prevailed on Friday’s opening night in Townsville.
Whitlock channelled the spirit of Australia’s World Cup of Darts triumph to complete an emphatic 6-2 victory over Wade, in his first appearance on home soil since 2019.
Whitlock’s mum Sue was in the audience to watch him play for the first time in his career, and he made a blistering start to race into a 4-0 lead.
Wade opened his account with a classy 124 finish en route to halving the deficit, only for Whitlock to follow up a clinical 78 kill with a 13-darter to complete the job.
"Honestly, this means more to me than a lot of things because my mum was here to watch me play for the first time ever," reflected an emotional Whitlock.
"To see the look on her face when I won, I was like ‘yeah that’s it’."
Whitlock’s win followed a superb display from New Zealand qualifier Haupai Puha, who secured his first victory on the World Series stage with an impressive 6-2 win over world number seven Jonny Clayton.
The Welshman squandered 13 darts at double in a profligate display, but Puha took full advantage to set up a last eight clash against three-time World Champion Michael van Gerwen.
The former World Cup of Darts quarter-finalist drew first blood with legs of 13 and 11 darts, and although Clayton threatened a late comeback, Puha kept his cool to prevail.
Elsewhere, Queenslander Gordon Mathers made it three wins for the Oceanic qualifiers with a 6-3 defeat of Fallon Sherrock.
Despite enduring double trouble in the latter stages, Mathers outperformed Sherrock to secure his first World Series victory at the third attempt.
Newly crowned Women’s World Matchplay Champion Sherrock was well below her best, but she did produce a superb 160 finish in leg four to open her account.
The home stars were close to enjoying further success in Townsville, as Whitlock’s World Cup partner Heta lost out in a thriller to world number one Gerwyn Price.
Heta produced a superb 136 checkout to move 4-2 ahead, but 128 and 120 finishes from Price forced a dramatic last-leg shoot-out.
In the decider, Price almost finished the match in sensational style, hitting eight perfect darts before missing double 12 for his fifth televised nine-darter of 2022.
However, the Welshman did complete the win with an 11-darter to gain some semblance of revenge for Wales’ World Cup of Darts defeat to Australia in Frankfurt.
Van Gerwen also survived a scare in his opener, scraping home against Western Australia’s Bailey Marsh, who impressed on his televised debut.
The 20-year-old gave the Dutch superstar a big fright after moving into a 4-2 lead, but Van Gerwen showed his class in the decider to triumph 6-5 in a nervy affair.
Masters champion Joe Cullen produced the performance of the night on his Debut Down Under, whitewashing Sydney’s Dave Marland 6-0.
"I had heard good things about Dave, so I knew I had to put him under pressure early," said Cullen, who hit six 180s and posted a 108.65 average.
"I would have taken 6-5 but it’s all about the victory and to win 6-0 is pleasing."
US Darts Masters champion Michael Smith was also in fine form, closing out a 6-0 success against big stage debutant Joe Comito.
Smith averaged 104.86, hit four maximums and converted six of his ten attempts at double to set up a quarter-final showdown against home favourite Mathers.
Earlier in the night, Dimitri Van den Bergh began his bid for a third consecutive World Series crown with a resounding 6-2 victory over Koha Kokiri.
The Belgian, who claimed wins at the Nordic Darts Masters and Dutch Darts Masters in June, kicked off the tournament with a brilliant 164 finish – the biggest of the night - en route to a convincing win.
The PalmerBet Queensland Darts Masters will conclude with a blockbuster session on Saturday, featuring the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final.
Coverage will be live on Fox Sports in Australia, as well as through the PDC's global broadcast partners.
Live coverage through PDCTV is available for all subscribers worldwide outside of Germany, Austria and Switzerland (coverage exclusively via DAZN), with a PDCTV Summer Pass option available for £10, which includes all three World Series of Darts events during August.
ITV4’s coverage in the UK will begin at 16:30 BST on Saturday.
Written by Phil Dillon
2022 PalmerBet Queensland Darts Masters
Friday August 12
Dimitri Van den Bergh 6-2 Koha Kokiri
Joe Cullen 6-0 Dave Marland
Haupai Puha 6-2 Jonny Clayton
Gordon Mathers 6-3 Fallon Sherrock
Simon Whitlock 6-2 James Wade
Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Bailey Marsh
Gerwyn Price 6-5 Damon Heta
Michael Smith 6-0 Joe Comito
Saturday August 13 (1900 local time, 1000 BST)
Schedule of Play
Dimitri Van Den Bergh v Joe Cullen
Michael van Gerwen v Haupai Puha
Michael Smith v Gordon Mathers
Simon Whitlock v Gerwyn Price
Best of 11 legs
Van den Bergh/Cullen v Van Gerwen/Puha
Smith/Mathers v Whitlock/Price
Best of 13 legs
Van den Bergh/Cullen/Van Gerwen/Puha v Smith/Mathers/Whitlock/Price
Best of 15 legs