Michael van Gerwen defied a staggering 106 average from Luke Littler to lift the TOTO Dutch Darts Masters on a thrilling Finals Night in Den Bosch on Saturday.
The Dutch number one delighted the partisan crowd at De Maaspoort with a memorable triumph on home soil, to avenge his defeat to Littler at the same stage of last weekend’s Bahrain Darts Masters.
Van Gerwen defeated his fellow countrymen Vincent van der Voort, Raymond van Barneveld and Gian van Veen to move through to Saturday’s showpiece, where he went on to lift the Toon Greebe Trophy, named in honour of his close friend who died last year.
The 34-year-old swept aside Van der Voort in Friday’s opening round, before launching an astonishing fightback to deny his old adversary Van Barneveld in the quarter-finals.
Van Barneveld, who edged out 2018 World Champion Rob Cross in round one, looked poised to claim another major scalp after producing 131 and 96 combinations to establish a 5-2 cushion.
However, Van Gerwen conjured up sensational 144 and 124 finishes in the latter stages, surviving a match dart in each of the last two legs to win through an epic encounter.
The three-time World Champion then ended the hopes of another Dutchman in the semi-finals, running out a 7-4 winner against World Youth Championship runner-up Van Veen.
The pair shared the opening six legs, but Van Gerwen turned the tide with a superb 11-darter in leg seven, winning four of the last five legs to set up his clash against Littler.
Littler stole an early march in Saturday’s decider with a break of throw in leg three, but Van Gerwen responded with a superb 11-darter, before converting a two-dart 78 checkout to regain the lead.
Littler hit back with a clinical 104 checkout on tops, and the pair continued to trade holds of throw in a high-octane affair, with Van Gerwen nailing a brilliant 130 combination in leg nine.
The teenage sensation continued to apply the pressure on the home favourite, missing the bull for a 121 finish in leg 11, which was bookended by 14-darters as he levelled at six apiece.
However, Littler paid the price for missing two darts at double eight to break throw in the penultimate leg, as Van Gerwen sank double ten to move to the cusp of victory.
World Championship runner-up Littler almost forced a last-leg shoot-out with a spectacular 170 checkout, only for Van Gerwen to wrap up victory with a sensational 12-darter.
“Luke put me under so much pressure,” reflected Van Gerwen, who averaged 100 and pinned eight of his 12 attempts at double to scoop his 16th World Series of Darts crown.
“Luke has a very bright future ahead of him. We all know that, but you still want to stop him, and you have to do the right things against him, which is what I did tonight.
“His scoring power is immense so you have to keep on fighting, but I am glad that I was able to.
“I’ve had some really tough matches in finals over the last year. I underperformed a lot of times, but it’s important to keep your fighting spirit and never give up.”
The second staging of the Dutch Darts Masters saw the trophy named in honour of the late Toon Greebe, which added to the emotion for Van Gerwen.
“To this trophy means a lot to me,” the world number two continued.
“Me and Toon had some great times when we were playing youth darts together, so lift this trophy in front of my home crowd feels amazing.”
Littler, meanwhile, was unable to make it back-to-back World Series titles in Den Bosch, despite defeating Luke Humphries and Gerwyn Price on Finals Day at De Maaspoort.
The 17-year-old won through a last-leg tussle against Humphries in the last eight, crashing in five 180s to gain a semblance of revenge for his defeat to the world number one in the World Darts Championship final.
The World Youth Champion then continued his winning run with a 7-4 success against Price, averaging 98 and landing four 180s to reach a third consecutive televised final.
“I will take the positives from this,” insisted Littler, who averaged 106.71 in an absorbing affair against Van Gerwen.
“It was an unbelievable game. I put Michael under a lot of pressure, but he just wouldn’t miss.
“The crowd have been amazing. They wanted Michael to win and I get that, but respect to Michael.
“I cannot wait to go down to Cardiff for the Premier League next week, and hopefully I can continue my good form there.”
Price succumbed to Littler in the semi-finals for the second week in succession, having missed double 12 for a nine-darter during the penultimate leg of his quarter-final tie against Kevin Doets.
Van Veen, meanwhile, enjoyed an impressive World Series debut, following up a first round win over 2023 World Champion Michael Smith by brushing aside world number seven Danny Noppert to reach the last four.
The European Championship semi-finalist registered a ton-topping average to topple the former UK Open champion, with Dutch duo Doets and Van Barneveld losing out in the last eight.
Following this weekend’s action in Den Bosch, the World Series of Darts will return later this year, as The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York plays host to the US Darts Masters from May 31-June 1.
2024 TOTO Dutch Darts Masters
Saturday January 27
Luke Littler 6-5 Luke Humphries
Gerwyn Price 6-3 Kevin Doets
Michael van Gerwen 6-5 Raymond van Barneveld
Gian van Veen 6-3 Danny Noppert
Luke Littler 7-4 Gerwyn Price
Michael van Gerwen 7-4 Gian van Veen
Michael van Gerwen 8-6 Luke Littler