Jose De Sousa continued to rewrite the record-books with his sensational exploits at last week’s PDC Super Series, and Wayne Mardle believes ‘The Special One’ is displaying similarities to 16-time world champion Phil Taylor in his approach to the sport.
De Sousa claimed back-to-back Pro Tour titles in Milton Keynes, having also fired in an astonishing 127 average during his opening game of Super Series 4 earlier in the week.
The enigmatic ‘Man O’Scores’ also broke the record for the most 180s hit in a single Pro Tour event with 34 – eclipsing Peter Wright’s previous record of 32.
‘The Special One’ shining
Jose De Sousa’s three-dart average over the last three months is 99.91. That’s more than any other player on the PDC circuit. (Darts Orakel)
This comes less than a month after the 47-year-old finished runner-up on his Premier League debut, having shattered the record for most maximums in a season, while also landing a nine-dart finish and taking out an incredible 120 checkout with three double 20s.
The Grand Slam champion has now won five individual ranking titles since October 2020, and this consistency is made all the more remarkable given his proclivity for producing the unexpected.
‘The Special One’ is renowned for his nonchalance in the counting department, but Sky Sports expert Mardle believes De Sousa’s unwavering belief in his game is reminiscent of Taylor in his pomp…
De Sousa’s Taylor-esque approach paying off
Jose at the moment is throwing as well as anyone in the world and that is including the world champ and world No 1 (Gerwyn) Price, that is including (Michael) Van Gerwen, Jonny Clayton, Dimitri Van den Bergh.
He is playing as well as anyone. I was watching him through the Super Series – he was leaving dodgy numbers but he was setting them up perfectly, so he is taking out 166 in four [darts], he is taking out 199 in four darts.
Phil (Taylor) did it for decades, but we’ve never seen anyone outside of Phil really do it. Phil had the ability, the accuracy and the constant level that was above everyone else, so he would invariably get away with it.
Because leaving 166 for Phil when someone is sitting on 241 – they hit a ton, he sets up the 166 and takes it out after they miss. It is not a problem and it was never a problem until the very latter end of his career, when his accuracy wasn’t as great.
These shots that are difficult to take out in two visits – Jose is doing it well and getting away with it, but like we saw in the Premier League, he was making errors that were costing him legs, which was costing him points.
That said, he still made the play-offs, so it has not cost him yet, and it has not cost him yet for one reason – he is replicating each and every dart and throwing so well and with so much confidence. He is playing as well as he’s ever played at the moment.
These minor errors that he is making now – I am calling them minor errors now because he is getting away with it, but at one point it will be a major error, because it will happen at an inopportune time.
‘Jose has simplified his game’
That consistency and the way he’s feeling, that confidence – he doesn’t care. That in itself is freeing the mind. If you were worried about something, you would get down to that position in a leg and your rhythm would go, your timing would go because you’re panicking.
We’ve seen it with Jonny Clayton a couple of times in the Premier League, where he just had to stop. I remember one of the later league-phase games; Jonny took an age off 182 – he stood there, stood there and still hit a big 20. In the end you bamboozle yourself.
That is what Jose is not doing. He is not bamboozling himself, he is throwing with freedom. It is fine now, but at the wrong time, when it happens, all of a sudden, I’ll be against him!
Jose has simplified his game because he doesn’t worry. We’ve seen him a lot of times recently on double seven. He is not particularly adept at hitting double seven, but he doesn’t care, because it’s a double and he’s thinking: ‘I can win the leg.’
That is Taylor-like. That is absolutely Taylor-like. I remember practising with Phil. He would say: ‘What double don’t you like?’ I would say double three. He was like: ‘I’m not really keen on double five.’
Anyway, I played him in a match, he wanted tops and he went inside tops, inside tens, double five. The very next leg – inside, inside, double five. I’m thinking: ‘He doesn’t like it,’ but the bottom line is, he doesn’t care that he doesn’t like it. He will still end up getting it because he has to go for it.
Jose is the same. When you look at Jose – I can normally pinpoint that a person is not overly confident on a particular segment – I don’t get that with Jose. I just think that he throws at anything in a real similar fashion.
He will throw at double seven like he throws at double 18. It’s like: ‘I think I’m going to get it’. You don’t sense that he is becoming ponderous or his rhythm is gone. He is in a special place right now and it’s not often that you get there.
The Special One in a ‘fantastic’ place mentally
De Sousa’s wide-ranging doubling
Statistics collated by Darts Orakel indicate that Gerwyn Price and James Wade throw a higher percentage of their double darts at tops than De Sousa does at tops and 16s combined.
Price was in it during the world final, and that happened to be the biggest game of his life to make it world No 1 as well. To throw with that freedom is very rare. Van Gerwen did it for three years and Taylor did it for the best part of 30 years!
These spells sometimes don’t last that long. I would love to see Jose at least get to the Matchplay [in this form] – it’s a month off. Jonny Clayton I think is already not playing as well as he was in February or March, despite winning the Premier League.
The way that others have to manage the board doesn’t mean so much to Jose, because double seven is a double along with double 18. Whether he gets it or not, I believe it is irrelevant. I don’t see a hesitation in his game.
De Sousa’s confidence on the outer ring
Statistics collated by Darts Orakel indicate that 9% of Jose De Sousa’s darts at double are thrown at random doubles (19, 17, 15, 14, 13, 11, 7). Only 7.5% of Michael van Gerwen’s darts at double are thrown at these targets, compared to 6% from James Wade, 4% from Gerwyn Price and 3% from Peter Wright.
He is in such a fantastic place mentally. He is enjoying life, he is new to it. Along with Price, Van Gerwen, Dimitri Van den Bergh and Clayton at times, he has got levels that will always win.
No matter what his opponent does, he knows he’s got the levels to win that particular match.
Darts is back on your Sky Sports screens in July, with nine days of coverage from the iconic Winter Gardens and the World Matchplay – the action gets underway on Saturday July 17.