‘Bully Boy’ Michael Smith has become the 2023 PDC World Darts Champion and in doing so won arguably the greatest leg of darts ever played.

He defeated Michael van Gerwen 7-4 in the final at Alexandra Palace last night in a match that will go down as one of the best PDC World Championship finals in history.

For van Gerwen, it was the third time that he has lost in the final, winning on the three other appearances he has made in the showpiece event.

It also represents a stunning turnaround in fortune for the new World Champion who, until November this year, had never won a Major tournament in the PDC.

That despite reaching several finals, including two previous World Championship finals.

Van Gerwen was the clear favourite heading into the final with bet365 Sport, while Smith was the outsider and part of the reason for that was the form that the Dutchman had shown in his progress through the tournament.

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Van Gerwen’s Serene Progress Installs Him As Firm Favourite

It is fair to say that throughout the tournament, from his first game in the Second Round, Michael van Gerwen looked destined to reach the final.

The Dutchman lost just one game on his way to a 3-0 second round victory over Welshman Lewy Williams and in Round 3, he defeated the Austrian Mensur Suljovic 4-2 in what was arguably his toughest test of the tournament until the final.

Compatriot Dirk van Duijvenbode was next on the radar in Round 4 and van Gerwen completed a routine 4-1 win to reach the quarterfinals where he faced Chris Dobey.

The two were scheduled to meet in last year’s tournament before Van Gerwen was forced to pull out due to testing positive for Covid-19, but he exacted revenge for that loss, dropping just three games in a dominant 5-0 win over the Englishman.

Next up in the semifinals was Dimitri Van den Bergh and the Belgian ace was no match for the Dutchman who once again steamrollered his opponent, losing just four legs on his way to a 6-0 victory.

Having lost just two sets in the previous 21 he had contested in the tournament, there was no doubt the Dutchman was looking likely to claim the crown.

All that lay in his way was the man he beat in the final back in 2019, Michael Smith.

Smith’s Progress Not So Smooth

Bully Boy began his quest for a first World title with a 3-0 win over Nathan Rafferty in the second round of the tournament, not losing a single leg to his Northern Irish opponent.

However, in Round 3, Smith found himself on the ropes. Facing Germany’s Martin Schindler, Smith went 3-1 down in the race to four sets, before winning a crucial fifth set deciding leg to make it 3-2 and he then found his form to win the next two sets 3-1 to clinch a dramatic 4-3 victory.

In the next round, Smith faced Joe Cullen and after a tight opening set, which Smith won, Cullen took the second 3-0 to level the game and it looked like we were set for another close call.

But then Smith found his rhythm and Cullen’s form tailed off as Smith won the next three sets in a row to claim a 4-1 victory to earn a place in the quarterfinals.

There he would face fellow citizen of St.Helens in Stephen Bunting and Smith roared into a 4-1 lead in the best of nine contest, only for Bunting to pull it back to 4-3, but Smith held his nerve to clinch the final set 3-1 and move into the semifinals on the back of a 5-3 win.

Awaiting Smith was another German in Gabriel Clemens and after sharing the opening four sets, Smith then rattled off four sets in a row to clinch the 6-2 victory and a place in the final for the third time in his career.

The Final – The Greatest Leg In The History Of Darts Shapes The Outcome

The first set began as many had expected. Smith won one leg but saw Van Gerwen break on Smith’s throw to claim three legs and take the first set.

It seemed that the Dutchman’s incredible form would continue and it appeared that it would take something very special to give Smith the momentum in the final.

That happened in the dramatic second set. After Van Gerwen and Smith held their throws in the opening two legs, the most pivotal game in the final occurred and it was, without any doubt, the most incredible leg of darts ever played in any event, even the World Championship Final.

Both players started the game with a 180, and then Michael van Gerwen landed a 177, to leave him on 144 and potentially a nine-dart finish.

However, Smith refused to bow down and struck another 180, putting him on 141 and giving himself a chance of a nine-darter.

It was already incredible to see both players in this position and the tension reached fever pitch as Van Gerwen hit treble 20 and then treble 17 but then saw his throw for double 12 just miss.

Still, he had one dart left, on his own throw, to win a ten-dart leg and in 99.9% of cases, that would be enough to win the leg.

But not tonight as Michael Smith hit treble 20, treble 19 and then an incredible double 12 to land only the second nine-darter in World Championship Finals history, the first since 2011 and crucially the leg to put himself 2-1 up, with him throwing first in the next leg.

With commentators and the crowd going wild, that one leg gave Smith a huge boost of confidence and he not only claimed the crucial second set but the third one two.

Back Comes Van Gerwen Before Smith Surges To Victory

However, from being 2-1 down, van Gerwen dug deep once again and rattled off three legs in a row to win the fourth set and then seemingly took a crucial advantage when he landed a tight fifth set 3-2, which also moved him into a 3-2 lead in the final.

But that would be as good as it got for the Dutchman as Smith surged in the next four sets, winning them 3-1, 3-2, 3-1 and 3-0 to move into a 6-3 lead and onto the brink of the World Championship.

Back came van Gerwen in the 10th set, landing a crucial 3-2 win to make it 6-4 and the two went head to head once again in Set 11, with both winning two legs.

However, Smith held his nerve to claim victory by winning the fifth leg, earning him not just the Sid Waddell trophy, £500,000 in prize money and top spot in the World Rankings, but also fulfilling a destiny that had been promised since he first burst onto the scene as a youngster and beat Phil Taylor in this very tournament.

Smith now has the chance to fulfil the destiny predicted by many since that victory over Taylor, that he would go on to become not just a World Champion, but a World Number 1 and multiple Champion at the Alexandra Palace.

Van Gerwen though will be back and if he continues to play darts at this level, he will surely win many more titles too.

However, as great as the final was, that third leg in the second set will go down as the greatest leg of darts ever played, when we saw two players hit 17 out of 18 perfect darts at a crucial moment in the biggest game of the year and under the utmost pressure.