Stephen Bunting delivered the performance of his lifetime to end his Michael van Gerwen hoodoo and finally claim a first major PDC televised title with victory at the Cazoo Masters.
The 38-year-old Englishman, who was a former BDO world champion, has been on the PDC scene for much of the past decade but had never got past a semi-final on the big stage and has endured a particularly torrid time against Van Gerwen.
A fourth-round defeat at the recent World Championship was his 22nd loss in 26 matches against the Dutchman and Van Gerwen boasted that he had Bunting’s number.
The moment he has waited for… 🏆
Stephen Bunting is crowned is the 2024 Masters Champion! pic.twitter.com/uBOTrzeaoS
— PDC Darts (@OfficialPDC) February 4, 2024
Bunting put that right in style in Milton Keynes, securing an 11-7 victory in a career-high moment.
He had laid a marker down with a stunning 11-1 win over Nathan Aspinall in the semi-final and returned to boss a pulsating final, landing eight 180s and averaging 102.5.
“It means a lot, I have been in the PDC for a lot of years now, I promised myself I wasn’t going to cry again on telly, this means an awful lot, the practice is paying off,” he said. “I am lost for words.
“To eventually get over the line in a major tournament is surreal. I’ll wake up tomorrow and think it’s a dream. I have put a lot of hard work in over the years.
“Everything I have been doing behind the scenes has paid off. You have always got to dream and believe, even in the darkest days.
“Michael had won so many games against me, he smashed me in the worlds. It shows now that the belief is there and I have a never give up attitude.”
Van Gerwen had been hoping to issue a reminder of his status as top dog on the darting scene as he chased a sixth Masters title.
The Dutchman, who demolished Dimitri Van den Bergh in the semi-final, has been overshadowed by Luke Littler since the teenager’s emergence on the scene.
But with Littler not playing in Milton Keynes, Van Gerwen had a chance to grab the limelight, only to came up against an inspired opponent.
“Stephen is the form guy. I thought I was playing a bit better but I couldn’t make the difference,” Van Gerwen said. “He put me under a lot of pressure. Fair play to him he played really well through the whole tournament.”