Snooker does not have grand slams like tennis or majors like golf but it does have three tournaments prized more highly than all the others.
They are the World Championship, UK Championship and Wembley Masters.
The qualifiers for the UK Championship are underway at Sheffield. The Masters is next month and, of course, the season will end with the annual 17-day Crucible event.
Only seven players have won the ‘big three.’
They are: Steve Davis, Terry Griffiths, Alex Higgins, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams and Ronnie O’Sullivan.
Let’s have a look at the cumulative number of titles players have won from these three events:
Stephen Hendry: 18
Steve Davis: 15
Ronnie O’Sullivan: 10
Ray Reardon: 7
John Higgins, Mark Williams: 6
Alex Higgins: 5
John Spencer, Cliff Thorburn: 4
And here are the number of finals players have been in from these three tournaments:
Stephen Hendry: 27
Steve Davis: 21
Ronnie O’Sullivan: 14
Alex Higgins: 13
Ray Reardon, Jimmy White: 11
John Higgins: 10
Mark Williams: 9
Terry Griffiths: 8
Behind the stats, here are my observations...
It’s no surprise that Hendry is top and the fact that he is reconfirms his reputation as the game’s greatest ever player.
However, he has not won one of the big three since 1999 when he captured his seventh world title. His last UK Championship success was 12 years ago and it will be 13 years since his last Masters victory when he goes to Wembley next month.
Davis appeared in his first big three final at the 1980 UK Championship and his 21st at the same tournament a remarkable 25 years later.
O’Sullivan is likely to win more and could possibly beat Hendry’s tally.
Alex Higgins enjoyed a good record in the big three and but for his showboating manner could have won more of them.
John Higgins and Williams, like O’Sullivan, could win more although the Welshman will this season have to qualify for the UK Championship and, wildcard aside, won’t be at the Masters.
Only three players have won the big three in the same season.
Davis did so in the 1987/88 campaign, Hendry in 1989/90 and again in 1994/95 and Williams in 2002/03.
There is no prize for winning all three in a single season (perhaps there should be) but doing so is, for me, the ultimate sign of how dominant a player is because they are easily the three most important tournaments in the game.