Joe Cullen claimed his second title of 2022 with victory in Players Championship 3 in Wigan on Saturday, defeating Damon Heta 8-4 in the final.
Cullen scooped the Masters title a fortnight ago and added £12,000 to his name with a seventh Players Championship victory of his career to continue his strong recent form.
He also bounced back in style from losing in Thursday’s Liverpool final in the Cazoo Premier League to Jonny Clayton as he won the first of two ProTour events being held at the Robin Park Tennis Centre this weekend.
Whilst not at his explosive best, Cullen enjoyed convincing early wins over Florian Hempel, Gordon Mathers and Vincent van der Voort, and held off Daryl Gurney’s fightback in a 6-4 win in the last 16.
He then averaged over 101 in a narrow 6-5 quarter-final comeback win over Jose de Sousa, sealing victory with a 12-darter after finding himself 3-1 down at one stage.
Cullen also found himself two legs down in his semi-final with Connor Scutt before turning a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead with four straight legs and then closing out a 7-5 win.
However, he dominated the early stages of the final with Heta, taking leads of 2-0 and 5-1 before the Australian pulled back to 5-4.
The tenth leg proved crucial as Heta missed his chance to level, with Cullen capitalising to regain breathing space before winning the next two to close out the title.
“It’s been a tough slog today but to win it is amazing,” said Cullen. “I’ve played terribly today and won the tournament, so what more can you ask for!
“I played well against Jose in the quarter-finals, and I knew that Damon was playing really well so I had to try to stick with him, nick the odd leg against the darts – I stayed in front and it was enough.
“When you can grind results out, it’s more satisfying than the ton-plus averages. I think the ProTours that I’ve won before, I’ve played decent and I’ve won them – today I’ve played terribly and I think this is my best ProTour win yet.
“There’s no better feeling than winning titles. To win the Masters and to get a ProTour under my belt early doors is definitely a big confidence boost.”
Heta had been bidding to win his second Players Championship title, having defeated Cullen in the final as he claimed his previous success in 2020.
The Australian was in outstanding form throughout Saturday’s event, following up a 99 average in his opening win over Josh Rock with five superb ton-plus averages.
They included a memorable 109 average in a 7-4 semi-final win over Michael van Gerwen, while he also defied a nine-dart finish from Matt Campbell in claiming a 6-4 second round success.
Van Gerwen saw off Dutch rival Raymond van Barneveld and reigning UK Open champion James Wade during his run to the semi-finals.
Youngster Scutt enjoyed am encouraging run to the semi-finals only a month after securing his PDC Tour Card, while emerging Irish ace Keane Barry joined former ProTour event winners De Sousa, Wade and Joe Murnan in the last eight.
World number one Gerwyn Price joined Premier League rivals Clayton and Michael Smith as well as European Champion Rob Cross in suffering first round exits on Saturday.
Play in Wigan continues on Sunday with Players Championship 4, with the 128 players competing for £100,000 in prize money.
Streaming coverage from two boards simultaneously will be available throughout the event in PDCTV.
2022 Players Championship 3
Saturday February 12, Robin Park Tennis Centre, Wigan
James Wade 6-4 Steve West
Michael van Gerwen 6-3 Niels Zonneveld
Joe Murnan 6-5 Jamie Hughes
Damon Heta 6-2 Alan Soutar
Keane Barry 6-0 Kim Huybrechts
Connor Scutt 6-4 Scott Williams
Jose de Sousa 6-5 Lewy Williams
Joe Cullen 6-4 Daryl Gurney
Michael van Gerwen 6-4 James Wade
Damon Heta 6-3 Joe Murnan
Connor Scutt 6-5 Keane Barry
Joe Cullen 6-5 Jose de Sousa
Damon Heta 7-4 Michael van Gerwen
Joe Cullen 7-5 Connor Scutt
Joe Cullen 8-4 Damon Heta