Mark Selby has won two PTC titles in the last season and a bit but could still end up as world no.1 without having won a fully fledged ranking title in the two-year cycle.
There have been only eight players to have held top spot since the world rankings were introduced in 1976: Ray Reardon, Cliff Thorburn, Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry, John Higgins, Mark Williams, Ronnie O’Sullivan and Neil Robertson.
The rankings have only really held weight since the mid 1980s when a substantial number of tournaments were used to formulate the list, which was worked out based on two season’s points up until last year.
Now it is a rolling list but no less accurate for that. The fact is, Selby is incredibly consistent – last season he appeared in two finals and three semi-finals.
He can take over from Williams when points are deducted at the next seedings cut-off point in a month’s time.
The old points system seems rather quaint now. Winners of ranking tournaments received six points (ten for becoming world champion), runners-up five, losing semi-finalists four and so on until we got into merit points.
This system may look antiquated but it always seemed to produce a pretty accurate list.
It all changed in 1993/94 when the tariffs were upped to the several thousands. Legend has it they were worked out by then WPBSA chairman John Spencer on the back of a fag packet, a story which ought to be true even though it probably isn’t.
The problem with both systems is that good performances took a long time to be rewarded with a rankings climb, so that winners of the UK Championship Doug Mountjoy, O’Sullivan, Stephen Maguire and Ding Junhui still had to qualify for the Crucible.
They remain arbitrary, though. I don’t see how the excellent German Masters is any less of a tournament than the Shanghai Masters, yet the winner receives 2,000 fewer ranking points.
It would be so much simpler just to scrap these tariffs and rank the players based on money won in each ranking tournament.
Because prize money – the amount sponsors believe a tournament is worth – does reflect on the importance of an event.
Personally, I can’t say the rankings excite me too much. A player’s stature comes from what they’ve won, how much they’ve achieved, rather than the number next to their name.
When Mark Williams dropped out of the top 16 he was still Mark Williams, with the aura and he class he always had. It was just that his form had gone walkabout.
When other players played him then didn’t think, ‘I’m playing the world no.22.’ They thought, ‘I’m playing Mark Williams.’
And it isn’t so much about a player’s ranking position as the band they end up in.
There is no material benefit to being ranked, say, sixth over seventh but there is a very dramatic difference between 16th and 17th place.
Whatever the system, success should be rewarded. Winning a tournament should mean a significant improvement.
But remember, the rankings is a game of snakes and ladders: every player has a chance to go up but they equally are in danger of sliding down.
As ever, performance on the table will determine a player’s position, whatever system is in place.