The sixth and final European Tour event of the season gets under way on Wednesday with the Gdynia Open in Poland.
Now in its third year, the Gdynia Open has established itself as a regular fixture on the satellite minor ranking event series.
While the 200-plus competitors who have entered will all be hoping to collect some silverware come Sunday evening, there is a number of other important matters on the agenda this weekend as well.
In particular, the final qualifying places for the Players Championship Grand Finals and the newly introduced World Grand Prix will be determined.
Elsewhere, for those lower down the rankings the Gdynia Open marks an important last opportunity to gain some vital money for the European Order of Merit – where eight places for those ranked outside the world’s top 64 come the season’s finale are available for Main Tour slots in the next campaign.
This is especially integral to legend Jimmy White’s continued presence on the circuit as a professional.
The ‘Whirlwind’ has fallen outside the top 64 in the rankings, of which players automatically regain their tour cards every year, and is unlikely to break back in having failed to qualify for the Indian and China Opens.
The 52 year-old’s saving grace has been his decent displays in the European Tour events this season and at the moment he stands among the eight who would be granted what would be a two-year membership.
A lot can change between now and the end of the season, though, with the top 64 places forever interchanging, so White will be looking to consolidate his position with a few more victories in Poland.
On gaining an invite into the lucrative Grand Finals in Thailand and Llandudno’s World Grand Prix, Irishman Fergal O’Brien is tantalisingly positioned in both Order of Merit tables.
The Grand Finals rewards players for their consistency in the European Tour events every season while the inaugural World Grand Prix offers a bonus to those who have won the most money in all ranking competitons in a single calendar year.
The Dubliner currently holds the 24th and final qualifying berth for the Grand Finals and is within touching distance of Rod Lawler in the 32nd and last ticket into the World Grand Prix.
O’Brien was runner-up to Shaun Murphy in Gdynia last season so will be hoping for some similar success in order to bolster his chances of qualifying for both upcoming tournaments.
Meanwhile, big names Neil Robertson, Mark Williams and Marco Fu are by no means guaranteed their Grand Finals so will be seeking a couple of matches to be sure of their trip to the Far East.
As ever, the draw for an ET event is massive, featuring a healthy mix of pros and amateur players alike.
The preliminary rounds take place on Wednesday and Thursday before the last 128 gets whittled down to the final 16 on Friday and Saturday. The winner will be crowned on Sunday.
Six Irish amateurs join countrymen O’Brien, Ken Doherty and David Morris in the draw with the likes of former national champions TJ Dowling and Jason Devaney, along with exciting young prospect Josh Boileau, among them.
The European Order of Merit can be viewed here. (Joe Perry and Stuart Bingham are ahead of O’Brien but have already qualified for the Players Championship Grand Finals via the eight places available on the Asian Tour Order of Merit.)
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