Ronnie O’Sullivan’s Players Championship defence could be over before it has even begun as he exited the Snooker Shoot Out at the last 64 stage on Saturday in Watford.
The “Rocket” lost the quick-fire second round frame to Billy Joe Castle at the Colosseum, meaning it’s now out of his hands whether or not he qualifies for next week’s ranking event in Southport.
O’Sullivan is currently hanging on to the 16th and final spot on the one-year rankings list, which would be enough to see him squeeze into the second leg of the Coral Series.
However, nine out of the 32 players who are still in contention for success at the Shoot Out can yet dislodge the 44 year-old.
Jack Lisowski and Zhou Yuelong, who ironically have been drawn to face each other in the third round, require a final appearance in order to earn the money necessary to surpass O’Sullivan’s tally.
Barry Hawkins, Liang Wenbo, Xiao Guodong, Michael Holt, Anthony McGill, Li Hang, and Ben Woollaston all need to claim the title and the £50,000 champion’s cheque.
O’Sullivan’s Players Championship victory in 2019 came at a time when he was producing some of the best snooker of his career.
The five-time world champion memorably compiled his 1,000th century break in the final before proceeding to lift the Tour Championship a month later – the third and most prestigious event in the Coral Series – for a record-equalling 36th ranking trophy.
O’Sullivan chose not to enter several ranking events at the outset of this season and, coupled with the fact that his form has taken a dip, that’s the reason why he finds himself in this predicament of potentially missing out.
Meanwhile, the Shoot Out will reach its conclusion on Sunday with five rounds still to be played.
No top 16 member at the time of the tournament has ever won this event, and there are only three from the elite remaining – the aforementioned Lisowski and Hawkins, as well as last week’s Welsh Open champion Shaun Murphy.
Three amateur players, who were invited to make up the numbers, could still spring an upset too.
Aaron Hill and Ross Bulman are two talented teenagers from County Cork in Ireland, and they will be looking to maintain their runs against Craig Steadman and Anthony Hamilton respectively.
Scotland’s Dean Young meets Yan Bingtao as the calendar’s most controversial competition reaches the business end.
🗣 “I watch Kyren on television every week”
Cork amateur Aaron Hill has beaten Kyren Wilson in the second round of the @BetVictor Shoot Out!
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) February 22, 2020
Shoot Out Third Round Draw (in playing order)
Session Starts at 1pm (Match every 15 minutes)
Zhou Yuelong vs Jack Lisowsko
Liang Wenbo vs Anthony McGill
Ashley Carty vs Mike Dunn
Anthony Hamilton vs Ross Bulman (a)
Brandon Sargeant vs Shaun Murphy
Lyu Haotian vs Sohail Vahedi
Aaron Hill (a) vs Craig Steadman
Jak Jones vs Peter Lines
Barry Hawkins vs Ben Woollaston
Jamie Clarke vs Li Hang
Zhang Anda vs Xiao Guodong
Yan Bingtao vs Dean Young (a)
Ian Burns vs Michael Holt
Luo Honghao vs Billy Joe Castle
Lei Peifan vs Mei Xiwen
Akani Songsermsawad vs Joe Perry
Live coverage continues on Eurosport.
Click here to view the full draw (Times: CET)