MICHAEL Smith insisted Luke Littler's popularity is "even bigger than Phil Taylor" after denying the 17-year-old darts sensation a shot at victory on his Premier League debut.

Smith edged out Littler 6-5 in a high-quality semi-final before going on to beat home favourite Gerwyn Price and silence a capacity Cardiff crowd.

"I actually thought in the semi-final Luke Littler was Welsh," said Smith, the 2023 world champion.

"It's going to be every week, it doesn't matter where it is.

"Everyone's fallen in love with him. He's even bigger than Phil Taylor who won 16 world titles, Luke is the most popular thing in darts."

He continued: "I'm going to ride the wave. People keep following, sponsors keep coming in, and the prize money is going up for us lads.

"When I walked in this afternoon there were no interviews.

"Luke Littler walked in and it was 'can you do this one, can you do that one?'.

"That was me last year. This time I got to sit and chill, break up my time on the board and it worked."

Smith beat seven-time Premier League champion Michael van Gerwen 6-5 in his opening match on the way to lifting a trophy for the first time since last April.

The St Helens thrower had to deal with unsportsmanlike whistling from some unruly individuals among the crowd.

Smith said: "I enjoyed the crowd apart from one or two individuals.

"I'm not going to say the crowd was disgusting because it was only two or three people, the other three or four thousand were amazing.

"Luckily enough it did not put me off, it's expected. You know you're going to expect some stick and some boos, especially playing Gezzy here.

"Whistling is not the best, but it happens in any sport. How do you stop it? It happens and it's up to the sportsperson to get on with the job.

"Going top of the league after week one is a message to myself. I'm happy to win and there's a few chinks in there, but to get five points on the opening night and a 10 grand cheque is always nice."

Littler had earlier avenged his World Championship final defeat by Luke Humphries four weeks ago with a 6-2 quarter-final win.

He averaged 100.30 in that match and 105.31 in a ding-dong affair with Smith.

Littler hit six 180s in the semi-final, but a missed match dart on double 15 cost him dear as Smith capitalised.

A comfortable win over Price - who had earlier taken out Nathan Aspinall and Rob Cross - put Smith top of the embryonic table ahead of week two in Berlin next Thursday.