This week was another that saw a ranking event end and another begin as Michael Holt bagged his first title at this level on Sunday in Watford.
The Hitman’s Shoot Out
Michael Holt prevailed in the Snooker Shoot Out last week at the Colosseum to claim his maiden ranking event title.
The 41 year-old rode his luck a little, as is required in a tournament in which each match lasts just a single frame, but ultimately was the best player throughout.
Holt has an unusual recent affinity with the Shoot Out, also reaching the final twelve months ago before this run earned him the £50,000 champion’s cheque.
The Shoot Out remains the most controversial competition on the calendar, and with reason.
With differing rules from all of the other events on the calendar, it will always prove to be a peculiar decision to upgrade its status.
Yet, here we are, and there can be no changing of history as Holt joins the exclusive club after 24 years as a professional.
Some have pointed to the fact that the “Hitman” won two events on the now defunct PTC series, which did carry ranking points but were only classified as minor-ranking and not exactly as prestigious.
It is argued that the Shoot Out is no less, or indeed lesser, of a proper tournament than those pro-ams, but the reality is that the WST and WPBSA make the decisions, and the opinion of fans is just that – opinion.
Michael Holt’s immediate additional reward was a place in the Players Championship, and he’ll likely receive a call to compete in the Champion of Champions next season as well.
Trump Number Five
Judd Trump’s dramatic 6-5 victory over Stephen Maguire in the Players Championship semi-finals on Friday means that he is only one win away from a fifth ranking title of this term.
That would equal the record for the most in a single campaign, matching the prior achievements of Stephen Hendry, Ding Junhui, Mark Selby, and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
While the likes of Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy have produced excellent runs of form in the last few months too, Trump has proven time and again that he is out there in a league of his own at present.
The 30 year-old has transformed his game in the last 18 months, a period in which he also secured silverware at the Masters and the World Championship for the first time.
Trump obviously has the scoring power, but he has developed an ability to dig deep when the going gets tough too, as highlighted when he fought back from 5-3 down to pip Maguire in the final frame – compiling a courageous 70 clearance in the process.
Murphy, meanwhile, could be the man who faces the world number one in Sunday’s showdown in Southport.
The recent Welsh Open champion beat Mark Allen in the last eight on Friday to set up a semi-final clash against Yan Bingtao.
💬 “That’s probably the best clearance I’ve ever made”
Trump led Maguire 3-0, trailed 5-3, then pinched the decider with an extraordinary clearance to reach his fifth ranking final of the season.
— World Snooker Tour (@WeAreWST) February 29, 2020
O’Donoghue Continues Home Dominance
The fifth senior ranking event of the Irish amateur season took place last week with a rather familiar outcome in Newbridge.
Brendan O’Donoghue lost only two frames as he romped to glory in the Irish Masters.
At the business end, the former pro whitewashed Jonathan Williams in the semi-finals before repeating the 4-0 scoreline against Philip O’Connor in the final.
O’Donoghue has won three out of the five ranking events this season and will be the clear favourite as the National Championship looms in April and May.
The Players Championship concludes this weekend with £125,000 up for grabs at the Waterfront.
For the first time since the middle of January, there’ll be no ranking event next week as the Championship League returns to reach its climax.
The Challenge Tour campaign is also on the home stretch, with the rescheduled fifth event scheduled at the moment before the tenth and final tournament takes places in Leicester over the next couple of days.
Photo credit: WPBSA