Martin Adams beat Stuart Kellett in the final of the Winmau World Masters live on BBC2 on Sunday afternoon to cap an enjoyable weekend of televised darts, and become only the second man in the 37-year history of the event to secure the trophy for three consecutive years.
Etched onto the silverware are the names of many of darts’ greats, scanning four decades – including Evans, Lowe, Bristow, Whitcombe, Harrington, Taylor, Priestley, Barneveld, and, from 1986-1988 Bob Anderson.
As so often for Adams, however, his achievement is undermined by circumstances outside of his control. For to compare his triumph with that of Anderson, ‘The Limestone Cowboy’, is to ignore changes made in recent years to the format of the oldest Major darts tournament.
Anderson’s achievement was phenomenal. For three consecutive years he battled through countless short-format matches against all-comers, without defeat. To show such consistent brilliance all day long in a game where millimetres win matches was a sporting success worthy of much praise.
For the last few years, however, the top 8 from the BDO annual rankings have been catapulted directly into the last 16 of the event – where they face 8 players who have spent the previous day grinding their way through the pack of hundreds. What would appear to be a misguided attempt to ensure that better known faces make it to the televised stages has resulted in Adams winning just 12 darts matches for his three titles. This year alone qualifier Martin McCloskey won 8 before falling to Adams at the semi-final stage.
To criticise Adams for this is to miss the point – he can only beat who he is told to play, and he did that to great effect. He has also made sure, each year, that he is one of the seeded players, by performing well on the circuit prior to the event – no mean feat in itself.
It is the administrators who should be admonished for allowing themselves to be persuaded that changes to the format were needed. In doing so, the history of a fine darting occasion was denigrated just a little, and one of the BDO’s two flagship events sadly lost just a little of its’ appeal.