Hampshire's Paul 'Crocodile Dundee' Hogan is the 2017 Worthington’s Champion of Champions winner, defeating last year's winner Jonny Clayton in a nail-biting final at Cardiff's St. David's Hall.
Going into the final, Clayton looked to be favourite following an almost faultless 13 and 14 dart semi-final win. He certainly had the crowd on his side, especially when he won the bull for the throw and started the first leg with throws of 140, 100 and 140.
Hogan kept pace though, with two tons and a 140 of his own. When it came to finding a finish, nerves affected the two players, with both needing 12 darts to close the first leg - Hogan pinning double four for a 21 darter.
One nil up and with the throw in the second leg, the momentum swung towards Hogan when he hit a ton with his first three darts. Clayton responded though with two tons of his own and when he hit a 180, the only one in the final, the Pembrokeshire man looked good to square the game.
He needed just 66 with Hogan back on 164. The Berkshire Super League player hit treble 20 with his first dart and had to check his second. When the treble 18 was confirmed it seemed inevitable that the bullseye would follow. And it did - a 15 darter to wrap up the final and claim the 2017 Worthington's Champion of Champions crown two legs to nil. In typical humble style, Hogan counted himself lucky to win the first leg. "Best of three is such a tough format," he said. "You just have to take every chance you get and really go for it. No half measures.
"Jonny is a wonderful player and the defending champion, but he let me in and I took my chance. I thought he'd squared things up when hit that maximum to leave a two darter, but when I threw that final dart at bullseye I knew it was going close."
Having lost in the last eight of the 2016 tournament, Hogan is understandably delighted to go further this year. Not only did he beat last year's winner, but he also beat Tony Darlow, last year's runner up, in the last eight this year.
"I should never have lost in 2016, so this has put everything right," he says. He adds that the Worthington’s Champion of Champions title goes down as one of his biggest achievements in the game, which is saying something for a player who has won countless titles and represented his country.
"The best of three format is so tough," he says, not for the first time. "Especially when the field is so big and every round has good players. You just can't afford to have an off game, or even a poor couple of throws."
Simon Hall, Red Dragon's Head of Marketing, added his congratulations. "Paul is one of the most popular players on the circuit and he showed today just what a great dart player he is.
"At times he blasted his opponents away, at others he had to dig deep and battle through. He is a truly worthy 2017 Worthington's Champion of Champions. This year’s event has surpassed all out expectations for both support of players and spectators alike and the standard and the passion shown at the finals, with our biggest ever ticket sales, every game was watched and supported superbly by so many darts fans, and we are privileged that so many people have supported this peoples darts event”.
The Champions event was also notable with the qualification of 11 year old Alex Hughes, from Donegal in Ireland. Alex’s first round draw couldn’t have been any tougher against the renowned Welsh player Kevin Thomas, who he rattled as the match went 1-all. It seemed that the entire venue had flooded to the front of the stage to witness such a young and small person throwing such superb darts. Kevin survived match darts from Alex to go through to the second round, but his reaction after winning told the true story of just how hard the game was for him.
The Champion of Champions draws to a close for this year and details of next year’s event will be released in the near future.