Ronnie O’Sullivan comfortably won the first Championship League event to become the first player to book his place in the Winners’ Group at Crondon Park in March.
The ‘Rocket’ was making only his second appearance at a tournament this season and his entry revealed that the 40 year-old wished to get rid of some of the rust that led to his 5-3 defeat to Stuart Carrington in the German Masters qualifiers last month.
The Championship League has always served a good purpose of creating an opportunity for players to hone their skills against other top competitors ahead of bigger ranking events – or in this case the Masters at Alexandra Palace next week.
O’Sullivan rarely looked in trouble despite the short best of five format, winning all six of his round-robin ties to the loss of just eight frames.
The five-time world champion then whitewashed both Ricky Walden and Robert Milkins in the play-offs with runs of 133, 120, 94, 82 and 70 to ease to victory.
Indeed, O’Sullivan’s fine scoring throughout the two days of play brought him seven century breaks, taking his tally of career tons to over the 800 mark.
This event, played behind closed doors and lacking media attention, will hardly go down as one of O’Sullivan’s finest moments but the manner in which he dismantled the field will surely give him a boost in confidence ahead of an attempt at a sixth Masters crown in a few days.
Meanwhile, runner-up Milkins, semi-finalists Walden and Mark Williams, and fifth place Barry Hawkins move forward to Group 2 for another shot at qualification, starting today and concluding on Thursday in Essex.
They’ll be joined by newcomers Mark Selby, Judd Trump and Joe Perry following O’Sullivan’s progress and the elimination of John Higgins and Ryan Day from Group 1.