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Darts: 'The Power' targets double-top finish

Darts legend Phil "The Power" Taylor said he had conquered a Rory McIlroy-style slump and was now ready to return to the summit of the increasingly popular sport before retiring.

SINGAPORE: Darts legend Phil "The Power" Taylor said he had conquered a Rory McIlroy-style slump and was now ready to return to the summit of the increasingly popular sport before retiring.

Taylor, spearheading a push into Asian markets for the pub pastime-turned-TV-hit, told AFP that like golf star McIlroy, he suffered a sharp loss of form after changing equipment. But the Briton, whose innovative approach and dedication has helped him dominate darts, said he was now targeting world number one and a record-extending 17th world championship.

"I want my number one spot back. And I want the world championship at least once more," he said, ahead of the inaugural Singapore Darts Masters. "So that's what I'm after. There's one thing that sounds better than 16 (world titles) - 17."

Golf's McIlroy switched to Nike clubs last year and endured a torturous slump before roaring back to win back-to-back majors this season. Taylor has also struggled since changing to Target darts in January but, despite being written off by some critics, he said "we've put it right now".

"I know what Rory McIlroy went through. It took me a little bit less time than Rory but I know exactly, mental-wise and the state you get into, trust me, I know exactly what he was thinking," he said. "It's the worst feeling in the world. When you know what you're doing is right and the shot is not going in the place where you've thrown it, it's the worst feeling in the world." The world number two said will play for another "two or three years" before retiring from competition and taking on a more ambassadorial role.

He is among eight top players appearing in Singapore, Perth and Sydney for the fledgling World Series of Darts, which is in Asia for the first time and eyeing expansion in the continent.

'QUICKFIRE SPORT'

Taylor, whose nickname comes from 1990 house-pop hit "The Power" by Snap!, is a cult figure in Britain and abroad and has made several trips to Asia to promote darts. "The game itself is getting bigger and bigger and bigger," he said. "Why is it doing well? I don't know. I suppose it's a sport where there's not a lot of rules, it's quick, it's over fairly quickly. It's just a quickfire sport and you can understand what's going on."

Helping this trend, along with TV coverage, is the rise of soft-tip darts, which have a magnetic rather than sharp end and are thrown at an electronic target. The targets can be linked over the Internet, meaning that players can face opponents in different locations and countries, giving the sport an exciting new dimension.

"Soft-tip is massive. Japan is very, very big for soft-tip. Singapore's massive. All over the East is massive. It's getting bigger all over the world now," Taylor said.

However, Taylor's primary goal is returning to supremacy in darts, a challenge he will tackle with his trademark focus. After the three-stop world series, he will lock himself away in his British holiday home for a month, drinking only specially made juices and hitting the gym twice a day. "I find when I train I play better, keeping your muscles a bit more supple and everything," he said.

Taylor's novel approach has been revolutionary for darts and many players are now following his example -- much as Tiger Woods kicked off a fitness craze in golf. He said reaching the top, and staying there, was down to dedication and belief, traits instilled in him by his hard-working parents as he was growing up in Stoke-on-Trent.

"It's just a matter of keep pushing forward. You know you can do it. So it's just a matter of keep pushing forward, keep believing in yourself," he said. "I'm very self-motivated. That's the way my parents brought me up. You wouldn't take a day off work with my mother -- you'd get a bucket of water thrown on you."