Birmingham joy for van Gerwen
Michael van Gerwen won his second ranking title of 2012 with a 6-1 defeat of Simon Whitlock in Sunday's Players Championship in Birmingham.
The young Dutchman followed up February's triumph in a Speedy Services UK Open Qualifier in Crawley by taking the £6,000 first prize at the NIA Community Hall.
Having been pushed all the way to an 11th leg in his first round game with John Bowles, van Gerwen then saw off Welsh youngster Jamie Lewis and Mark Walsh before enjoying a 6-3 win over double World Champion Dennis Priestley to reach the quarter-finals.
Van Gerwen then powered past in-form Justin Pipe 6-1 with a near-109 average and defeated last weekend's UK Open champion Robert Thornton 6-2 with another fine display in the semis.
He continued the form in the final against Whitlock, winning the first five legs without reply to leave the Australian reeling, including a 78 finish and an 11-darter to break throw twice, along with a 96 finish for a 14-darter which featured his second 180 of the game.
Whitlock landed his second maximum in leg six before taking out 73 to keep the game alive, but a missed bullseye in the next leg allowed van Gerwen to step in and seal the triumph on double 16.
"It feels great," said van Gerwen, the world number 35. "It's the third ProTour event I've won since I joined the PDC and I played some good darts today.
"I'm very happy to have won and it should help me qualify for the World Grand Prix as well as the World Matchplay, which is great.
"I showed that I can play against slower players like Justin Pipe, Mark Walsh and Dennis Priestley and that will give me a lot of confidence."
Whitlock enjoyed his first run to a ranking final since October 2010 with his display in Birmingham, as he maintained the form which saw him reach the McCoy's Premier League Darts final last month.
He dropped only three legs in wins over Roland Scholten and Mark Dudbridge before seeing off Premier League rival Andy Hamilton 6-3 to reach the last 16.
After surviving an 11-leg battle with Andy Smith, Whitlock then defeated Mervyn King 6-1 in the quarter-finals and Wes Newton 6-3 in the semis as he earned £3,000 prize money on the day.
Thornton's run to the semis earned him £2,000, and that prize money could prove crucial in earning him a World Matchplay place through the ProTour Order of Merit.
Newton was a semi-finalist for the second successive day as he completed a strong weekend's form in Birmingham, which included a narrow quarter-final win over Darren Webster that was only sealed by a 95 finish on the bullseye in the deciding leg.
Steve Beaton's run to the last eight helped his chance of earning a World Matchplay qualifying spot, and he was joined in the quarter-finals by Pipe, King and Webster.
Webster - who is competing on the circuit this year as an Associate Member after missing out on a Tour Card at Qualifying School in January - continued his impressive return to the professional ranks by reaching his second quarter-final of the year.
Priestley was joined by two other former World Champions, Raymond van Barneveld and Richie Burnett, in losing out at the Last 16 stage, alongside Dave Chisnall, Premier League star Kevin Painter, Andy Smith, Richie Howson and John Henderson.
World champion Adrian Lewis was defeated by Pipe in the third round, while world number four Gary Anderson lost out at the same stage to Thornton, who repeated his victory from last week's UK Open against his Scottish rival.