Michael Holt beat Zhou Yuelong in the Final of the 2020 Shoot Out yesterday evening, and won his first ranking title in 24 years as a pro.
Congratulations Michael Holt
Nottingham’s 41-year-old Holt would certainly have been in the conversation on ‘best player never to win a ranking title’ but has now finally broken his duck by going one better than last year, having finished runner-up to Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 12 months ago in Watford.
The Hitman earns his biggest ever payday by taking the £50,000 top prize at snooker’s unique quickfire one-frame knockout event. The tournament has never been won by a player ranked inside the top 16 since it was first staged in 2011 and world number 41 Holt continues that sequence.
Holt got in first in the final with an excellent long red and made 42 before missing a red to a top corner. Zhou had one chance to counter, but after potting a red missed a tough blue to a baulk corner. Holt added 22 which was enough to secure his milestone moment.
As a massive extra bonus, Holt earns a place in next week’s Coral Players Championship by climbing to 16th on the one-year ranking list. Ronnie O’Sullivan was 16th coming into this week but now he will not have the chance to defend that title, as instead Holt heads to Southport to face Judd Trump in the first round.
The spin-offs are far-reaching for Holt as he almost certainly gains a place in the Champion of Champions event in November. For the popular potter and his heavily-pregnant wife Amy, who was among the crowd, the financial rewards are life changing.
China’s Zhou was also seeking his first ranking title but has to settle for £20,000 and another runner-up medal, having lost to Neil Robertson in the European Masters final last month. Victory for the 22-year-old would have given him that spot in Southport and also boosted his hopes of topping the BetVictor European Series rankings and taking the £150,000 bonus. Instead, that race will be settled between Neil Robertson and Judd Trump at next month’s BetVictor Gibraltar Open.
“It’s amazing just to hold that trophy up,” said Holt, who turned pro in 1996 and had lost two previous ranking finals. “The clock forces me to trust my instincts and just play what I see in front of me. It’s in me to enjoy it and embrace the crowd, which helps. I’ve had a bit of luck but you still have to pot the balls when you get chances.
“I’m 41 but that’s not old in snooker terms and I’m still eager. I’m not weathered or tired, I still have things I want to achieve. I’m as hungry as any 21-year-old. I want to keep getting better and be as good as I think I can be and see where that takes me. I have had a lean few years and it has been hard financially, so the money is brilliant.
“I can’t wait to go to Southport now because to be in big tournaments is what you play for. It will be tough against Judd but I have never minded competing against the top players. I’m looking forward to the rest of the season now.”
Although I’m genuinely pleased for Michael, I’m rather gutted about what this means for Ronnie, as explained by Matt Huart here:
Please note that this is strictly provisional and subject to event entries:
Judd Trump (1) v Michael Holt (16)
John Higgins (8) v Graeme Dott (9)
Ding Junhui (5) v Stephen Maguire (12)
Mark Selby (4) v Mark Williams (13)
Neil Robertson (3) v Joe Perry (14)
Yan Bingtao (6) v Kyren Wilson (11)
Mark Allen (7) v Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (10)
Shaun Murphy (2) v David Gilbert (15)
Players are marked in bold once their position can no longer change.
Latest qualification standings (23/02/2020):
14th – Joe Perry – £112,000
15th – David Gilbert – £104,000
16th – Michael Holt – £102,000
17th – Zhou Yuelong – £100,250 (F minimum)
18th – Ronnie O’Sullivan – £97,500
19th – Gary Wilson – £91,000 (SF minimum)
20th – Jack Lisowski – £83,750 (F minimum)
21st – Tom Ford – £83,250 (F minimum)
22nd – Zhao Xintong – £73,750 (title minimum)
23rd – Kurt Maflin – £72,000 (title minimum)
24th – Ali Carter – £72,000 (title minimum)
24th – Barry Hawkins – £69,250 (title minimum)
25th – Matt Selt – £65,250 (title minimum)
26th – Liang Wenbo – £64,500 (title minimum)
27th – Xiao Guodong – £63,500 (title minimum)
28th – Matthew Stevens – £62,750 (title minimum)
29th – Stuart Bingham – £62,500 (title minimum)
30th – Scott Donaldson – £62,250 (title minimum)
32nd – Anthony McGill – £52,500 (title minimum)
33rd – Ben Woollaston – £52,250 (title minimum)
34th – Li Hang – £51,500 (title minimum)
35th – Luca Brecel – £49,000 (title minimum)
36th – Ricky Walden – £47,750 (title minimum)
Players already out of the Shoot Out have been
The sad state of affairs means that Ronnie won’t be defending his Players Championship title this week. It’s even harder to take because of the nature of this event, and because, had Ronnie beaten Kyren Wilson in the World Grand Prix, he would be 15th in this list and playing Shaun Murphy in the first round on Wednesday.
But somehow it sums up Ronnie’s season. In “proper” snooker tournaments he hasn’t done that badly: one win, the Shanghai Masters, one final, the NI Open, two semi finals, two quarter finals, two last 16 and just one first round defeat. He’s won 77% of his matches this season so far; that’s about the same success rate as Shaun Murphy; only Judd Trump and Neil Robertson have done better, and only slightly so. Reading this you’d expect him to be in the top 16 bracket in the season. He isn’t, he’s 18th.
The issues have been:
- He hasn’t played in enough tournaments. It impacted his earning and his form.
- Those he played in were not the most lucrative, except the one in China, where he suffered his only first round defeat.
- His best results came in invitational tournaments.
- When playing under pressure, he has looked more edgy and vulnerable than usual.
Ronnie would need something extraordinary to find himself in a position to defend his Tour Championship title He would need to enter the Gibraltar Open, to win the title, and hope that an all host of results go his way this week, starting with John Higgins losing in the first round to Graeme Dott, only for Dott to lose in the next round. Let’s just face it: it’s not going to happen.
So, there is probably only the World Championship remaining this season for Ronnie, provided he enters it. And he’s going to need to play more and get results next season to stay in the top 16 as he has a lot of points to defend.
What happened there? Well maybe the answer, or at least part of it, was revealed by his sister in an interview she gave to The Sun. Mark posted the link in the comments section of yesterday’s post (Shoot Out 2020 – Day 3) , and in my answer to Mark’s comment. It would also explain what happened at the Crucible last April.
Ronnie has looked edgy and anxious for most of the season, and if there are indeed off the table issues related to the family situation, it’s not surprising. Being privately happy and at peace is important and, when we are not, it impacts every aspect of our lives, including at work. We have had many examples over the years in snooker, most recently affecting Ding Junhui, Neil Robertson, Barry Hawkins and Shaun Murphy amongst the top players. And there are many more, hitting lower ranked players, we rarely hear about …
So that’s how things stand. There is nothing that we can do about it, except hoping that whatever issues Ronnie is facing, they will be resolved soon, and he’ll be happy and at peace again. That’s the most important thing.
As for the Crucible, should he enter, one factor that might help him, is that this year he won’t be favourite and the media attention and fans expectations will be on others: Judd Trump, Neil Robertson and Shaun Murphy being the obvious “targets”.
Ronnie was on the counter for the afternoon review…