There are two great tournaments left to finish off the snooker season and the first of those begins on Monday when the eight leading money earners in ranking events this season head to Llandudno for the Tour Championship, the final event of the Cazoo Series.
Neil Robertson warmed up for the World Championship in fine style last season when he sauntered to victory in this tournament and he has made it into the eight man field and will attempt to defend the title successfully.
2021 – Neil Robertson
2020 – Stephen Maguire
2019 – Ronnie O’Sullivan
One of the more appealing things about this tournament is that with only eight players taking part we have the whole event on one table with one match on each of the seven days of the competition. The other really inviting thing about this event is that from the quarter finals right the way through to the final every match in the competition is the best of 19 frames. The champion will be decided in the final on Sunday. The players slot into the draw in the position they sit in the money list for this season.
Top Four Seeds
The leading money earner on tour this season is Zhao Xintong and he will be the number one seed this week. The UK Championship and German Masters winner will be looking for a third win on the campaign. He is still relatively new to top level snooker and by that I mean these elite events where only the best take on the best so it will be interesting to see if he is overawed by the occasion or not. If he isn’t then he is entitled to be heavily involved if he has his best snooker with him.
The defending champion Neil Robertson is the number two seed this week. The Australian picked up ranking titles at the English Open and Players Championship and in between those successes he took down The Masters too. There is a feeling that despite his woeful World Championship record since he won it 12 years ago that he is the best player in the game in the longer formats so he should be right at home here. At 10/3 he might well be the one to beat.
Ronnie O’Sullivan is the third seed this week and he is 4/1 to win a second Cazoo Series title of the season after he landed the World Grand Prix just prior to Christmas. O’Sullivan now lives for the big events and although this is only the fourth staging of this tournament this is very rapidly becoming one of the must qualify for competitions of the season. It should be no surprise if the best version of O’Sullivan turns up here and if it does he is more than capable of taking this down.
At the beginning of the month Judd Trump wasn’t even in the field but he went to the Turkish Masters and landed a second title of the season after also winning the Champion of Champions, the money from which doesn’t count towards the ranking for this, to qualify and comes in as the fourth seed. I would imagine he will have targeted this stage of the season from a while ago because he’s never won this event and his record at the World Championship isn’t the best so this feels like a good time to target. He’s the 5/2 favourite this week.
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Lower Four Seeds
Luca Brecel almost won tournaments in successive weeks in December when he lost in the final of the UK Championship before winning the Scottish Open the following week. He comes in here fifth on the rankings which is no mean effort although he has gone a little quiet since the turn of the year. He is another not really accustomed to tournaments like this but he is experienced enough to know he doesn’t have a huge amount to lose as he is the 25/1 outsider of the eight.
Mark Williams was the first knockout ranking event winner of the season and he has been consistent enough since then to book his place in this tournament as the number six seed. He has only won one main event match since the Shootout where he made the final though so he will need to rediscover some of his form from earlier in the campaign if he is going to go deep here. He isn’t helped by being in the harder of the two halves of the draw so the 22/1 odds about him winning this are probably fair.
Mark Allen as good as secured his path into this tournament when he prevailed at the Northern Ireland Open and he has held on to stay seventh on the one-year ranking list and secure his place in the field. Allen sealed the deal with a run to the semi-final of the German Masters and will take on Neil Robertson in the first round. He is often adjudged to fade in the longer formats so he has the chance to silence a few doubters this week. He is 14/1 to take the title.
The last man into the field this week is John Higgins. He was sweating on Saturday night when Kyren Wilson was one win away from taking him out of the event but Robert Milkins did the Scot a favour and got him in. The Championship League winner has also been to four finals this term without getting over the line in them. Had he won one of those he would have been in the field a lot earlier but now that he is here he is 6/1 to go all the way.
This is a season where outsiders seem to have become favourites to win tournaments and I’m actually going to take a chance on the rank outsider of the eight to come good in the form of Luca Brecel. It is fair to say that Brecel hasn’t really done much of note in 2022 but when you look deeper into his form he has lost in a deciding frame in the last three tournaments and had he come out on the right side of those margins who knows what he could have achieved.
Clearly you would like to be in top form coming into a tournament like this but on the flip side of that he will arrive here fresher than some. Brecel is in the top half of the draw which I think is where you want to be this week. He will face Judd Trump in the opening round but I’m still not convinced Trump is firing on all cylinders and then he gets the winner of Zhao Xintong or John Higgins for a place in the final. He’ll be hugely motivated to beat Xintong after losing to him in the final of the UK Championship while he has already beaten Higgins in the final of the Scottish Open. I don’t think any of those three are in top form so there is a route to the final if Brecel turns up with something near his best game and at 25/1 I’ll pay to see what he has got.
Back L.Brecel to win Tour Championship (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 26.00 with Coral (1/3 1-2)
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