The big money Betfred Premier League kicks off for another year tonight, with the first match featuring the two favourites for the title.

Ronnie O’Sullivan has won the event for the last two years and is as short as evens with the Tote to complete a hat-trick.

It’s an ideal competition for O’Sullivan. Uniquely, there is a 25 seconds per shot time limit in operation, which means players have to get on with it, limiting the amount of safety play.

Also, O’Sullivan is known to hate having to hang around at week long tournaments, where there may be two or three days between matches. In the League, he merely has to breeze in, play his match and then breeze out again.

There is a huge financial incentive on offer as well. The top prize is £50,000 – more than most ranking events – and players receive £1,000 for every frame won plus another £1,000 for every century.

O’Sullivan scooped £87,000 from the event last year and will be highly motivated to top up his bank balance still further.

However, his opponent in Carlisle tonight, China’s Ding Jun Hui, comes into the event having beaten O’Sullivan 9-6 in the season’s first tournament, last month’s Northern Ireland Trophy.

Ding, still only 19, plays the same flowing sort of game as O’Sullivan and is his main rival to League success this season.

The League line-up is determined by promoters Matchroom and their decision to exclude John Higgins, the only player to win more than one major title last season, has raised eyebrows.

Instead, Stephen Hendry, Ken Doherty, world champion Graeme Dott and veterans Steve Davis and Jimmy White have been given the nod.

Hendry, six times the champion, is in action tonight against Dott, who will surely struggle at first with the shot-clock.

Dott’s style is resolutely methodical – he battled against Peter Ebdon for 14 hours in their world final – and he will have to change his entire game if he’s to make any impact on the League.

Hendry, though back to no.1 in the world, has not produced consistently good form for a couple of years but his fast, attacking style of play is tailor made for success in the League, which is why he’s only once failed to qualify for the semi-finals in the 14 years since play-offs were introduced.


Anonymous said...

I dunt understand why John Higgins is kicked out of the League. What kind of standard will be used to select players?

Dave H said...

The credibility of the League suffers from not having Higgins in it, but they'll sell more tickets with Jimmy White and Steve Davis in the field.

Anonymous said...

Can you tell me what the basis of selection for the Premier Snooker League is? As the last two world champions, Murphy and Dott, have both been invited to the PSL.

Is there a new criteria for selection.

Also, any news where the Masters is heading? Preston was a rumour. Is it true?

Thanks, Joe

Dave H said...

The Masters will be at the Wembley Arena.

The League has in previous years been the top four plus three wildcards. Matchroom understandably always pick an Asian player for overseas TV sales, although Ding should be on it anyway.

This year they've got the top three - Hendry, Doherty and Ronnie - plus the world champion, Dott, plus old stagers Davis and White.

White, Davis and Ronnie are the three biggest players for ticket sales.

I certainly think Higgins should be in it but you can see their point.

Anonymous said...

Wow! They're playing at the new rebuilt Wembley Arena. That should certainly be interesting. I'll be interested to see how they stage that.

Also, I think they found a solution to Ding defending his UK Championship, didn't they? As it clashed with the Asian games.

Does the same apply to O'Sullivan? Am I right in thinking the pool series tour leg at London's Excel clashes with the Grand Prix. If so, has the Rocket declared himself available for the Grand Prix?

Thanks, Joe

Dave H said...

The Excel event has been cancelled, so there won't be a clash. I get the feeling Ronnie's love affair with pool may already be waning in any case.

Anonymous said...

Won't the Wembley Arena be too big for snooker?