The Welsh Open – through no real fault of its own – has become the poor relation of the world ranking circuit, so much so that it’s now worth less in points and money than all the other tournaments.
This is a shame because when it was held at the Cardiff International Arena it was one of the best events on the pro tour.
It had moved from Newport in 1999 in what proved to be a successful attempt to upgrade its image but returned there in 2005 – via the Welsh Institute of Sport – to cut costs.
The irony is that some of the snooker we’ve seen there over the last few seasons has been excellent. The O’Sullivan v Hendry final of 2005 was superb, we had Andrew Higginson’s great run in 2007 and Selby v O’Sullivan in 2008.
Last year, Ali Carter produced a terrific final session display to beat Joe Swail 9-5 in a match played before a packed Newport crowd.
Wales is a snooker country. It has produced many a fine player, from Ray Reardon to Doug Mountjoy, Terry Griffiths to Darren Morgan, Mark Williams to Matthew Stevens and several others too, including current Welsh no.1 Ryan Day.
The announcement that totesport.com will sponsor the tournament – the first it has had in seven years – is a boost to an event that currently loses money and is in danger of being axed.
The draw this year seems lopsided to say the least. Ronnie O’Sullivan, John Higgins, Shaun Murphy, Mark Selby and Ding Junhui are all in the bottom half.
Neil Robertson, Ali Carter and Stephen Maguire are among those in the top half which, on paper, looks easier.
Of course, snooker isn’t played on paper and predicting a likely winner come January 31 remains as fraught as ever.
It’s good to see Tony Drago qualifying right from the first round, a tremendous effort by the veteran Maltese cueman.
Judd Trump was among those who came through from Prestatyn and he tackles Selby, who will be hoping history can repeat itself and he can win the Welsh title fresh from capturing the Masters, as he did two years ago.
For all the innovations and talk of different events, snooker’s bedrock remains the ranking tournament circuit.
With only six events this season, any player regarding the Welsh Open as unimportant should think again.
The tournament will be shown on BBC Wales, the BBC website and Eurosport.