Race to the Masters: Two to Go
Following Ronnie O’Sullivan’s victory at the Shanghai Masters yesterday there are now just two events to be played before the field is set for January’s 2018 Dafabet Masters. O’Sullivan of course is already guaranteed his place in London as the defending champion, but who will be joining him at the Alexandra Palace?
As during previous seasons, the seeding cut-off for the Masters falls after the UK Championship in York. At this point the top 16 on the official world ranking list (excluding the suspended Stuart Bingham), including prize money earned dating back to the 2015 Gibraltar Open, will qualify to play at snooker’s biggest invitational tournament this season.
Who is safe?
Looking at the Masters Race table, which already takes into account the removal of ranking points prior to the crucial seeding cut-off, we can see that all of the players down to 12th placed Kyren Wilson look to have a healthy enough advantage to those knocking on the door of the top 16.
Anthony McGill and Mark Williams are also well placed to qualify, McGill looking to do so for the first time in his career, and will likely just need a few wins over the next fortnight to secure their places.
In the mix
With the Northern Ireland Open set to get underway tomorrow, 15th placed Liang Wenbo will be targeting a deep run to further consolidate his position inside of the top 16. His last 16 run in Shanghai last week did him no harm, but with big money on offer at the UK Championship in particular, he is still vulnerable to being leapfrogged by somebody behind him on the list who can go deep at either the Barbican Centre or in Belfast.
The same applies to Welshman Ryan Day, who is currently in possession of the final qualifying spot and is looking to return to the Masters for the first time since reaching the quarter-finals back in 2010. A second round defeat in Shanghai to Yu Delu saw him miss the chance to extend his advantage of just £1,412 to the chasing pack, but his fate remains in his own hands with two events to go.
The chasing pack
Perhaps surprisingly to those who have not followed the Masters Race up until this point, the first player who would currently miss out is 2012 Masters champion Neil Robertson, the Australian needing a run (or two) over the next few weeks if he is to extend his unbroken run at the event dating back to 2007.
Currently ranked ninth on the official world ranking list, Robertson is set to drop down the order following the removal of the £150,000 earned by his victory at the 2015 UK Championship from his ranking total over the next few weeks. Since that event his results have not been as consistent as we have come to expect from the three-time Masters finalist, but there have been signs of improvement of late and he remains a player that few would want to face in either Belfast or York.
A further £8,575 behind Robertson comes Pinner Potter Martin Gould, who has been in strong form of late following a quarter-final run at the Shanghai Masters and his semi-final at the International Championship in Daqing. Interestingly however, Gould has elected not to enter the Northern Ireland Open, meaning that he must win at least two matches at the UK Championship, very likely more, if he is to bring himself into contention.
Elsewhere, former UK champion Stephen Maguire and defending Northern Ireland Open champion Mark King are also still within range of the top 16 if they are able to perform over the next couple of events.
Of course though, with a maximum of £240,000 there to be won in Belfast and York, the potential remains for almost anyone in the rankings to vault up the list, as Luca Brecel did with his victory at the China Championship to break into the top 16 for the first time.
The Northern Ireland Open gets underway on Monday 20th November 2017 – visit www.worldsnooker.com for the latest news.