In recent years the summer months have been a time of leisure for snooker players.
Now, in the middle of August, they are preparing for the fourth Players Tour Championship event, which starts in Sheffield tomorrow.
The PTC has been a hit with the players. 91 members of the 96 player main tour have entered the latest.
Among them are Ronnie O’Sullivan, back for the first time since PTC1, and Stephen Hendry and Mark Allen, who are each making their debuts in the series.
Mark Selby, winner of PTC2, heads the current table with £13,100 followed by PTC3 champion Tom Ford and Mark Williams, who won PTC1.
The top 24 will advance to the grand finals in March. Currently, only five members of the elite top 16 (I’m including Jamie Cope for now) are in the qualifying zone.
There’s plenty of time for all that to change. Including PTC4 there are still nine events to go.
Matches to look out for in the first round include Selby against Zhang Anda, who ran Hendry so close at the Crucible last season, O’Sullivan against Ryan Day and world champion Neil Robertson against Daniel Wells.
But, to me, the most interesting match is Hendry against 19 year-old Anthony McGill: the all time legend of Scottish snooker versus its bright new hope.
Hendry will recognise in McGill much of himself as a younger man: the determination, the fascination with the game and the excitement at being part of the circuit.
Young Anthony has emerged relatively unscathed from the disgraceful way the sport was run in Scotland and has already figured in a PTC quarter-final this season.
Of course, it would be stretching credulity to believe he could have a career that will emulate Hendry’s but there’s no shame in this. Nobody else has either.
So far the PTC is doing what it says on the tin: providing high quality match practice for useful financial reward plus ranking points.
And it’s not just good for the pros. Amateur players are also reaping the rewards by gaining crucial experience against some of the green baize’s biggest hitters.
For instance, Daniel Skingle takes on Cope.
I have no idea who Daniel Skingle is. He’s the only player in the draw I have never heard of.
But what a great opportunity for him to learn from playing one of snooker’s hottest talents.
He’s just another player who has reason to be grateful the Players Tour Championship has been established.