WHITLOCK CLAIMS MAIDEN MAJOR TITLE WITH EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP TRIUMPH
Simon Whitlock won his maiden major title with an 11-5 win over Wes Newton in the PartyPoker.net European Championship final on Sunday night, completing a brilliant weekend of darts by scooping the 50,000 pound first prize in Germany.
The Australian had been a loser in three previous major finals, including the McCoy's Premier League Darts this May, but ended that run in style to defeat Newton.
Whitlock followed up wins over Mark Walsh and Dave Chisnall in the first two rounds with a 10-7 quarter-final defeat of Colin Lloyd and an 11-9 semi-final triumph against Kim Huybrechts on Sunday at the RWE Sporthalle in Muelheim.
After taking an early 5-2 lead in the final, he landed a 167 checkout in establishing a 9-4 cushion, and even seven 180s from Newton was not enough to save him from defeat as Whitlock delighted the partisan German crowd by sealing victory.
"I've been so close to winning a major in the last couple of years and I'm absolutely ecstatic to finally win one," said a tearful Whitlock.
"I came into the weekend confident after winning a Players Championship last Sunday and I've taken that form into this tournament. It had been a couple of years since I'd won a tournament but this is two in as many weeks now and I'm just over the moon.
"The crowd here were fantastic and although their support for me can make it tough for my opponents, their reaction has been amazing and I have to thank them because they've made the event really enjoyable.
I'm so happy and I want to go on from this now and win more major titles, the World Championship and become world number one - I want the lot!
This a dream finally coming true and I'm so proud of what I've done. Wes is a fantastic player and he's had a great tournament but I played really well and was so determined to win that final."
The pair made a superb start to the final with 180s in the opening leg and shared the first four before Whitlock took three in a row to take command, hitting a 180 in taking leg five in 13 darts, before double ten broke throw for the first time and double six earned him a 5-2 lead.
Newton fired in a 13-darter to hit back and bettered that with an 11-dart finish as he cut the gap to 6-4 in his best spell of the game.
Whitlock, though, found an extra gear to win the next three legs, with a brace of 14-dart finishes sandwiching a magnificent 167 checkout as he pushed into a 9-4 lead to move two legs away from the title.
Newton, aided by his sixth maximum, took the next to stay in the hunt but could only watch on as Whitlock finished 94 to lead 10-5 before defying a 180 from the number five seed to seal victory with double eight.
The win jumps Whitlock up to fifth in the PDC Order of Merit as he moves above Newton, who suffered defeat in his second major final after being the runner-up in the 2011 UK Open.
"It's been a good weekend and although I'm disappointed to lose the final, I'll take the positives out of it," said Newton.
"I felt good going into the final but it just didn't happen for me. It was a really hard game for me, the crowd were on Simon's side and he played really well, and he deserved to win.
"It hurts to lose in the final because you're so close, but on the other hand it's another final and I'm taking steps in the right direction - hopefully one day I'll win one."
Newton's run to the final included an 11-9 semi-final victory over his room-mate, Northern Ireland's Brendan Dolan, which saw him come from 9-6 down to win five straight legs for victory.
He also defeated Andy Hamilton 10-8 earlier on Sunday in the quarter-finals, and took home 20,000 pound as runner-up.
Dolan, the runner-up in last year's World Grand Prix, ended Phil Taylor's four-year reign as European Champion with a superb 10-6 win over the world number one in their quarter-final clash.
After the lost semifinal Dolan said: "Wes was tremendous on doubles and he out-scored me and fair play to him, but from being 9-6 up I don't think I should have lost it. I've had a great tournament though and I'm pleased to reach the semi-finals."
Belgium's Kim Huybrechts joined Newton in reaching the semi-finals courtesy of a sensational 10-8 win over Raymond van Barneveld in the last eight.
Huybrechts - who only turned professional in July 2011 after qualifying for last year's European Championship - now moves into the world's top 32 for the first time after earning 10,000 pound prize money.
Kim Huybrechts said: "It's disappointing to lose the semi-final but I played really well and we took each other all the way. The 132 was a lovely finish and I believed I could still win it, but Simon had a brilliant last leg."