The snooker tour now heads to Australia and Monday sees the start of
the Australian Goldfields Open from Bendigo where Mark Selby is 5/1
favourite. It must be noted that in addition to Ronnie O'Sullivan six
other members of the current top 16 including Judd Trump and John
Higgins have also elected not to travel down under.
This makes the draw somewhat uneven - for example in the top quarter
the highest ranked player is Stuart Bingham at 12th.
We can discount the form from the Six Reds World Championship in
Thailand this week - not because it was only six reds but because the
Shenson table had very thick cloths which made the tables much slower
but also the pockets were oversized too with players clearly taking
liberties with them. They were a throwback to the 1980's and reminded
me of Kirk Stevens 147 at the Masters in 1984.
Neil Robertson missed Bangkok to prepare and do PR for his home
tournament and is well drawn here. He is a slow starter into the
season but has practised hard for this event. It must be said that at
the Crucible in April he was the only player who put O'Sullivan under
any pressure going down 13-10 in their quarter final from 5-3 up. He's
a very proud Aussie and was heartbroken to lose to Dominic Dale in the
second round last year after his opponent needed a snooker. Now a
seasoned, clinical and tough match player the 6/1 (stanjames) for a
home win should be taken.
Robertson - Has practised hard and wants to win at home
In the bottom half of the draw Stephen Lee is worth following again
after losing his opener to the in-form Marcus Campbell in the Wuxi
Classic. He was runner up in the first PTC of the season last month
going down on the final black to Bingham and was the most consistent
player at the start of the year. The 18/1 (Skybet, Boylesports)
considering the depleted field is top value about the Trowbridge
player and should be backed each-way.
Looking at the outsiders Matthew Selt continues to impress in patches.
He went down 5-4 to Peter Ebdon in the final qualifying round in the
Wuxi Classic and he has impressed on TV before. But does have a tough
opener against the form man Bingham who won't be so confident after
failing to produce in that final in China last month and lost readily
10-4 to Ricky Walden - who didn't overly impress either. It was
surprising how Bingham was clearly worried about losing because he has
won a lot of matches recently including final frame deciders at the
start of this campaign. I thought he'd stopped choking at the business
end but we'll have to see.
Last year here in Bendigo Selt beat John Higgins and Stephen Hendry
before going down 5-3 to Shaun Murphy in the quarters. He is on record
as being happy wih his form and arrived in Australia a few days ago to
acclimatise and prepare for the event. The 175/1 (Boylesports) about
Selt in this easiest top quarter is worth a small each-way punt.
Marcus Campbell is in the form of his life and reached his first major
ranking semi-final in Wuxi after 20 years as a professional. Now up to
21 in the rankings it is the manner he has achieved it too having more
bottle as he's got older which is not the norm. Tough opener here
against Murphy though but if he can get through this he then plays
Dale or Tom Ford and I'd fancy him to make the last eight. By which
time some top seeds should be out and the draw could really open up
for him. The 80/1 (Skybet, Boylesports) is worth a small each-way
investment about the man from Dumbarton.
The middle and lower ranking players are doing right by taking every
opportunity to earn money and points in this hectic schedule that now
is the World Snooker tour. Not least because the Chinese boom in
snooker is in the next five years going to explode to a point where
their players will make up half the tour.
At the Wuxi Classic last month there were eight wildcard matches
featuring Chinese players two of whom prevailed. The standard was
incredible. Given another two years experience at this top level and
most of these eight will be on the main tour with hordes more
following them in. So the message is simple to the current crop of
main tour players. Currently there is more money to be made than most
can remember so fill your boots while you can - it won't last forever
because the Chinese are coming in droves