Snooker Preview: Scottish Open

When the Barry Hearn administration took over the professional game at the start of the decade the maestro himself promised the professional playing fraternity more opportunities and earning potential. He has certainly delivered on his promises.

Immediately after nearly a fortnight in York for the UK Championship, the week-long Scottish Open in Glasgow begins on Monday; it will be the last major event of 2017.

The tournament at the Emirates Arena is the third leg of the Home Nations Series, with the Welsh Open still to come later on in the season. Excitement and talk of the ‘Million Pound Bonus’ has now gone after there were different winners of the opening two stops.

Similar to the UK all 128 players will play at the venue, although the initial rounds revert back to the short Best of 7 Frames format.

Marco Fu is the defending champion after he put on an excellent performance to defeat home hero John Higgins 9-3 in last year’s final.

The Hong Kong star has never retained a professional ranking title and comes here after a poor first half to the campaign that has incredibly not seen him reach the Quarter-Finals of a ranking event yet. He doesn’t have the most appetising of sections to the draw either.

There are a few big names absent for various reasons. World Champion and Number 1 Mark Selby has again given this a miss, China Championship winner Luca Brecel is nursing a shoulder injury, whilst recent Northern Ireland Open champion Mark Williams has just withdrawn to be with his wife who is currently in hospital. 2015 World Champion Stuart Bingham is still serving his ban for breaking betting rules.

UK finalists and arguably the two most consistent players of the season, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Shaun Murphy, are scheduled to be there, though, as too Judd Trump, Ding Junhui, John Higgins, Jimmy White and many more star names.

The frantic nature of these Home Nations events means we see plenty of excitement and ‘upsets’ throughout. We had a very unfamiliar cast for the latter stages in Belfast a couple of weeks ago with Elliot Slessor, Lyu Haotian and Yan Bingtao all featuring in the Semi-Finals. 17-year-old Yan nearly created history in becoming the youngest ever winner of a ranking event, but was denied in a deciding frame by Williams in the final.

Nevertheless, despite these new faces emerging and surprise results, the winners, so far, have not been rank outsiders or unheralded (although Mark King, last year’s winner in Belfast, would have been a big price).

There could, though, be a slight comedown factor for some of the players off the back of the UK Championship, which in truth is a much bigger event than this one. Fatigue, again, may play a part, it is rare these days for a player to win consecutive competitions.

This could open the door for a few candidates who are perhaps due a return to the winner’s step. Mark Allen has been consistent this term and seems to only be stopped by someone playing shut out snooker. Neil Robertson, who is now outside of the World’s elite top 16, has been open about his off-the-table problems but has shown spells of his former self with some powerful scoring displays. Both Mark and Neil, though, are in the same quarter of the draw.

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