Darren says relax! Webster feels good ahead of PDC World Championship
- Credit: Picture: Lawrence Lustig/PDC
Staying relaxed will be key to Darren Webster following up his remarkable November with success at the PDC World Championship.
The Norwich builder begins his campaign at the showpiece tournament in today's evening session, where he will take on 16th seed Stephen Bunting in the first round.
He goes into the match brimming with confidence as well, having whitewashed 16-time world champion Phil Taylor and gone agonisingly close to beating dominant world number one Michael van Gerwen last month.
The 48-year-old, who lives in Bowthorpe, became the first player to ever whitewash Taylor twice when winning 5-0 in a group game at the Grand Slam of Darts at Wolverhampton Civic Hall.
That wasn't enough to reach the knockout stages but Webster then surged to the best result of his career just a week later, reaching the semi-finals of the Players Championship Finals in Minehead.
The former Earlham High School pupil beat Christian Kist 10-6 in his first televised quarter-final in almost 10 years, guaranteeing £20,000 in prize money and teeing up a clash with Dutch star van Gerwen.
He then raced into a 6-0 lead in the best-of-21 encounter but saw van Gerwen hit back to win 11-8 and then go on to win the tournament.
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'It sounds daft but when I look back I don't think I played really well but I had the finishes!' Webster said with a chuckle.
'I got up to number 26 in the PDC before and then left, and I said to my manager it would take four years to get back there.
'What you have to do is learn not to care because then your body relaxes and you just throw your darts.
'I've done quite well at the end of the fourth year now, so that's where I'll start from.'
Webster is now ranked 35th in the PDC Order of Merit, with £94,250 in prize money to his name so far this year.
He insists money is not his motivation though, as he prepares to step back into the spotlight at the darts world's highest profile event of the year, which continues through until Sunday, January 2 – and is being screened live on Sky Sports Darts, with a top prize of £350,000.
'I'm not well off on the money side of things but I'm a builder so I've had plenty of work the last few years,' Webster continued. 'So I don't really care about the money, I want to win things.
'Money takes the edge off it so I'm starting to relax when I'm up on the stage and that makes you feel a lot better.
'Blokes like me don't play a lot compared to the real top boys so then when you do play them on the floor it can be difficult but I've actually done well.
'Gary Anderson I'm 4-4 with, Michael Smith I'm 7-0 up on, I beat Phil Taylor and I nearly beat Michael van Gerwen, so when you get up there on the stage it's totally different.'
Anderson has won the World Championship in the last two years, with Webster beaten 4-0 by van Gerwen in the last 32 last year.
Tonight he and Bunting are due to be third to the oche in the evening session, which starts at 7pm, in a best-of-five first round match.
The 31-year-old from Liverpool is known as 'The Bullet' and has endured an under-whelming year, but reached the World Championship quarter-finals in 2015 and was BDO world champion in 2014.
'Stephen I don't think has probably been at his best lately, so he'll have a really good game or not, it doesn't worry me,' Webster concluded.
'There's more feeling to it when you go up against one of the big ones but I just play the best game I can, I don't play against anyone, I just throw at the board the best I can.
'I've been practising my finishing a lot. Normally scoring is my strong point, it's just whether I had the finishing.
'So I've been dedicating more time to finishing. Looking at my games against Phil (Taylor) and Michael (van Gerwen), I was rushing my last dart, so it's about pacing myself.'
Comment: Festive fun at Ally Pally
For many people Christmas is about the three 'Ts' – turkey, tinsel and... tungsten. The PDC World Darts Championship has become part of the festive season as the world's greatest darts players do battle at Alexandra Palace over the next couple of weeks. At a time of the year when people perhaps spend more of their day in front of the television, the darts provides a sporting spectacle that few others can match. As much as we like to see the likes of Phil Taylor and Michael Van Gerwen on the oche it is often the crowd that provide as much entertainment. Spirits run as high as the bar bill although it appears all good natured. Norwich City fans will remember when the Canaries squad enjoyed a night out there in 2012, just a few hours after Joey Barton and Bradley Johnson had clashed in City's 2-1 win at Loftus Road. It's the event to be seen at and you can bet there will be a few footballers enjoying a bit of downtime at the Ally Pally.