What About the Race to the Masters?

The focus this weekend is obviously on the UK Championship with eight players remaining in the hunt to pocket the £170,000 top prize in York.

Alexandra Palace
There’s always a special atmosphere at the Masters with only the elite involved. Photo credit: Monique Limbos.

However, there has been an interesting subplot throughout the tournament with the final invitations to the prestigious Masters still to be determined.

The UK Championship represents the last counting event towards the rankings list that will duly determine the top 16 players who will compete at the Alexandra Palace in January.

By this stage of proceedings in York, it would have been expected that several of the top 16 seeds would have made it this far, thus eliminating most of the chasing pack.

Yet, six out of the remaining eight competitors were ranked below the crucial cut-off point before the outset of the sport’s second biggest ranking event, with all of them still able to force their way into the running for what would prove to be a lucrative berth in London.

With former champions Ronnie O’Sullivan and Shaun Murphy already well-assured of their qualification, Ryan Day is the player who is the most poised to join them as he currently holds onto 15th place in the provisional Race to the Masters standings.

For the Welshman to miss out on a return to the Masters for the first time since 2010, a specific set of results needs to materialise, but the Riga Masters champion will effectively be fine if either he, O’Sullivan, or Murphy reaches the final.

Liang Wenbo, in 16th place provisionally, is the player most likely to miss out.

The Chinese must initially rely on Martin Gould losing to O’Sullivan in the quarter-finals, with the Pinner Potter possibly one victory away from squeezing into the running.

But final appearances for a trio of the chasing flock – notably Stephen Maguire, Mark King, and Joe Perry – will give any of those contenders a shot at reaching the invitational.

Only one outcome will do for Mark Joyce, ranked no.42 in the world rankings, with the Englishman requiring a maiden ranking event trophy in order to drastically upset the odds.

Joyce is the only man who has never before experienced the prestige of the Masters.

Anthony McGill, meanwhile, in 14th place in the provisional standings, can afford to put his feet up and relax as the action reaches its climax in York.

The Scot is guaranteed a debut trip to the Masters as it’s now impossible for three players to overtake him in the pecking order.

Matt Huart, formerly of ProSnookerBlog and now the Media Officer at the WPBSA, has been running a live blog over the course of the last week where you can be kept up-to-date with the latest in the Race to the Masters.

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