John Higgins has won the 2015 Australian Goldfields Open after a dramatic 9-8 victory over Martin Gould in Bendigo.
In a hugely entertaining final where the pendulum swung on multiple occasions, Higgins just about prevailed as he lifted his 27th ranking event trophy – equalling Ronnie O’Sullivan at third on the all-time list.
Higgins began the contest as the big favourite against Gould, who was looking for his maiden victory in a tournament of this magnitude.
The Scot duly got off to the better start as a break of 90, followed by a tight second frame which he took on the black, sent him two clear.
However, Gould had been playing confidently all week, especially in the break-building department, and runs of 101, 86 and 89 helped the Pinner Potter turn the scores around and go 4-2 ahead.
40 year-old Higgins responded with a century of his own and bagged the last frame of the opening session to leave the scores even going into the evening bout of play.
Higgins began the resumption in the same fashion as earlier in the day by taking the first two frames to establish a nice cushion once again.
Gould, featuring in just his second ranking event final, would have been forgiven for folding at this stage but continued with his attacking mindset and a wonderful 138 total clearance narrowed the gap to one.
It should have been level at the final mid-session interval only for a costly missed attempt at a plant, which allowed Higgins in to make a 68 break and enjoy a 7-5 advantage at the break.
Gould, 33, wasn’t going away, though, and breaks of 55 and 58 helped him to get back on level terms at 7-7 as the event promised to reach a conclusion that fitted the entire week, which saw many encounters go down to the wire.
Higgins’ break of 60 took him to within one frame of lifting a second trophy in Australia, 21 years after claiming his first title as a professional, and the Scot looked as though he was going to capture the success in the penultimate frame before rattling what was effectively match ball red along the top rail.
Gould subsequently cleared with a gutsy 35 to force the decider and had the first crack in the 17th frame but could only muster 8 points, as Higgins secured the triumph in typically ruthless fashion with a cool 89.
It caps a brilliant start to the 2014/15 campaign for the Scot, going one better than his final appearance in the World Cup for Scotland a fortnight ago by taking home the winner’s cheque.
This time twelve months ago many were wondering whether we had seen the last of the best of John Higgins but he has once again proved his doubters wrong, adding the Australian Open to the Welsh Open crown which he already captured this year.
For Gould, it’s a massive disappointment to have come so near yet not emerge successful, though he should take great confidence into the remainder of the campaign.
Overall, crowds in this year’s Australian Open were disappointing, aside from this weekend when the tournament reached the business stage.
It’s a shame because actually the event itself is excellent and year on year provides plenty of early-season drama for the fans to enjoy.
Hopefully in the future a venue in a bigger city, like nearby Melbourne, can be secured as well as a change in the time slot on the calendar to perhaps August or September.
As it is, we’ll have a three-week break in play now as the majority of July sees no snooker action.
Plenty of time then for John Higgins to revel in his latest victory of a stellar career.