Michael van Gerwen has left parting praise for the Kiwi contingent of contestants at the Auckland Darts Masters.
The 29-year-old Dutchman cruised to his maiden Auckland title on Sunday night, collecting his 17th event win of the season.
While van Gerwen made light work of his first-round match against Cody Harris, a lot of the touring professionals struggled against their local opponents.
Englishman Michael Smith, ranked fourth in the world, was taken out in the opening round by Mark McGrath. Ben Robb and John Hurring also came close – with match darts against Simon Whitlock and Rob Cross, the reigning world champion, respectively.
After beating countryman Raymond van Barneveld 11-4 in the final, the world No 1 van Gerwen said the seven Kiwis in the competition all made quite an impression.
"To be fair, the first few games they did really well," van Gerwen said. "But it's also short form, so it's really difficult to judge them on that.
"(But) even Rob Cross and Simon Whitlock, they could have lost their first games – Simon Whitlock had one match dart against him, Simon Whitlock two match darts."
McGrath's win in the opening round saw him become the first Kiwi to ever win on the stage in Auckland in the four-year history of the competition. However, his run was brought to a halt in the quarter-finals by van Barneveld, who made light work of the Kiwi.
"I knew Raymond was going to beat him," van Gerwen said, "but he still did really well and for New Zealand darts it's good."
For van Gerwen, the results saw him bounce back from an early exit in Shanghai in his most recent tournament. He said he felt like he still wasn't playing at his best, but was confident heading into two events in Australia.
"I can still do a lot better than this, and everybody knows that. (World No 2 Peter Wright) made a comment about two weeks ago: 'Michael is a great player but he's not a phenomenal player.'
"I gave the answer this weekend. I smashed him, like I did the last probably 20 times.
"I've won 17 tournaments this year so far. Next week - 18, the week after - 19."