The Premier League, first staged in 1987, is now the circuit’s fourth longest running event after the World Championship, Masters and UK Championship.
It returns on Thursday with a line-up worthy of its name, featuring all of last season’s major winners.
Ronnie O’Sullivan, an eight times champion, had been utterly dominant under the shot clock format until last year when he was beaten 7-3 in the final by Shaun Murphy.
I can’t believe Ronnie did his cause any good by running the Norwich half marathon on the morning of the final but his failure to win the League reflected his disappointing season as a whole in which O’Sullivan won only one title and lost his world no.1 spot.
I’d be amazed if he didn’t reach the play-offs again but he certainly isn’t nailed on to win the title.
This year’s field is the best that’s been assembled for years.
It includes Neil Robertson, the reigning world champion who also won the Grand Prix last season. The Australian has not particularly impressed in the Premier League before and it will be interesting to see how his game is affected by being Crucible king. It can go one of two ways: either boosting confidence or adding pressure.
Murphy, like any top player, wants silverware and so was probably disappointed by the season just gone but is always a dangerman.
The same applies to Ding Junhui, the current UK champion, who has produced some terrific snooker in the League in the past, although he wasn’t picked for it last season.
Marco Fu had a poor campaign but not at the Championship League where he produced snooker of the highest standard and ended up winning the title to qualify for the Premier League.
Mark Williams, the China Open champion, has never played under the shot clock format. As one of the circuit’s fastest players it shouldn’t encumber him too much but it may take a bit of getting used to.
Mark Selby, the Masters champion, returns having reached the final on his only other Premier League appearance two years ago.
I’d back Selby, O’Sullivan, Murphy and Ding to reach the semi-finals in November and as regular readers will know I’m rarely wrong about such things.
The League, sponsored this year by partycasino.com, is in some ways the natural successor to Pot Black, which brought snooker to TV audiences on a weekly basis from 1969-1986.
With big money - £1,000 per frame and per century – and generally big crowds, the players tend to produce high quality snooker and the event takes the game to various corners of the UK usually ignored.
The action starts at Southampton Guild Hall from 7.30pm on Sky Sports HD3 and Sky Sports 3.
O’Sullivan faces Fu while Murphy tackles Ding. Clive Everton and Mike Hallett will commentate.