Ben Woollaston’s shock victory in Players Tour Championship event 3 yesterday highlighted the strength and depth that snooker currently enjoys.
The Englishman beat former world champion Graeme Dott in the final to become the fourth different winner of tournaments this season following Ronnie O’Sullivan and Judd Trump’s successes in the opening two PTCs and Stuart Bingham’s equally surprising triumph in Australia.
Indeed, all four semi-finalists in Sheffield came from relatively nowhere having not done much so far in this campaign.
Scotsman Dott contested the last four in the first PTC in June but Woollaston, Barry Hawkins and Anthony McGill had all been quiet on the circuit until now.
Their appearances at the business end of the event is testament to Barry Hearn’s belief that there are rewards in the sport for those who are willing to work hard.
Similarly, it makes sure that those further down the rankings become more known to the wider public and snooker community.
With so few opportunities a couple of years ago, lower ranked professionals would hardly get any TV time which, in turn, would result in them finding it difficult to tempt sponsors.
While the expenses have increased to the detriment of some, the potential for a lucrative season has equally risen and Woollaston’s victory proved that the chances are there to be taken.
The amazing thing is that there are no guarantees that the 24 year-old will mount a serious challenge in any of the remaining tournaments this year as is he still ranked outside the world’s top 50 and the competition is fierce.
However, his efforts over the weekend have ensured his safe passage into the PTC Grand Finals next March.
The win should inspire other players of the same ilk and it would not really be surprising now to see more victors from outside the regular top 16.
The word ‘elite’ used to be used regularly when the magic 16 was mentioned but its importance isn’t as vast as in the past – especially with the cut-off points in the rankings.
Players know that they will have plenty of tournaments to contend in and the pressure is taken off in many ways, specifically so early on in the longer campaign.
Of course, cueists like John Higgins, Mark Williams and Judd Trump will frequently be around – especially in the bigger ranking events – but the greater presence of other faces is very welcomed indeed.
The question is, who is going to be next?