When John Part emerged victorious in the 2003 PDC World Darts Championship final, not only did he put an end to an incredible run of 44 successive victories and 8 back-to-back World Titles for Phil Taylor, Darth Maple avenged a 7-0 thrashing at Taylor’s hands in the final 2 years earlier. Inspiring the now immortal line of commentary from Sid Waddell, “John Part of Canada! In the greatest game ever seen by Sky.”
Going into the 2003 World Championships it is important to point out just how dominant Phil “The Power” Taylor was. With the great man at the very peak of his powers it had been 9 years since he had lost a match at the Circus Tavern and his PDC World Championship record at the start of the tournament was an utterly ridiculous; Played 45, Won 44, Lost 1.
In fact, it was Taylor who had ended Part’s hopes of glory in both of the previous two years. A 7-0 demolition in the 2001 final, in which Part won just 3 legs in the whole match and a 6-0 defeat in the 2002 quarter-finals.
To reach his 3rd World Final (2nd in the PDC), Part had defeated Cliff Lazarenko 4-1, Jamie Harvey 5-3, Chris Mason 5-0 and Kevin Painter 6-4 in the semis. Taylor meanwhile reached yet another final by way of victories against Steve Brown 4-1, Wayne Mardle 5-3, Dennis Smith 5-3 and Alan Warriner 6-1.
With the Canadian viewed as a clear underdog by both the bookmakers and the pundits, it was imperative Part got off to a fast start. Checking out 121 on the Bull in the very first leg was exactly what was required, settling Part and sending a warning to Taylor that this was not going to be the walkover many had predicted.
If anything, the predicted walkover looked set to be in Part’s favour. The Canadian nailed double 20 for the first set, then after Taylor missed 7 darts to square up at one set apiece Part punished, doubling his advantage. A few minutes later Darth Maple pinned double 10 to race into a 3-0 lead.
As The Power began to show signs of life, taking out a brilliant 122 checkout en route to winning the 4th set, Part restored his three-set advantage soon after to go 4-1 in front.
Something about seeing his opponent go within 3 sets of a famous victory seemed to ignite The Power. Throwing some of the best darts of the match including checkouts of 82 and 109, an inspired Taylor would reel off 9 consecutive legs and in the blink of an eye wipe out Part’s advantage, levelling the game at 4-4.
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When Taylor took out the highest finish of the final, an imperious 167 checkout to take the lead for the very first time at 5 sets to 4 many would have thought there was only one winner from there. Part would refuse to be denied however, just as The Power looked set to assert his control the Canadian battled back bravely in the 10th set to get back on level terms.
As the finish line neared and the tension grew, both players squandered chances at double in the 11th set before Part held his nerve to take out a 61 finish and move just a set away from the biggest and best win of his life.
Great champions never know when to call it a day though and they don’t come much greater than Phil Taylor. The Power found double 10 to take the 12th set and send the final into a deciding set.
In the final set, it was Part who struck first. After Taylor had missed 3 darts to take the opening leg a nerveless Part took out 72 and nudge ahead. With Taylor then missing a dart at double 16 to get back on level terms the Canadian mopped up 15 to move 2 legs clear, just 1 away from victory now.
Taylor held throw in the 3rd leg thanks to a 98 finish on double 12. As the tension rose to boiling point The Power wired the Bullseye for a 121 finish that would have seen him level up the final set before John Part returned to the board. Wanting 77 for the title, Part’s first dart dropped below the required treble 19 and his 2nd found the big 18 meaning he had one dart for the title at tops. One dart was all he required, nailing double 20 to seal a famous victory.
As the late great Sid Waddell raved on commentary, a gracious Taylor embraced his conqueror in a hug filled with mutual respect ending one of the great periods of dominance in darting history. As Part would say himself in the days after his victory “this way it means so much more because it was me who defeated him, me who ended it. I'm the champion now."