Race to the Masters 2021: Three to Go

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Already with just two events completed during this most unusual of snooker seasons, the qualification race for the 2021 Masters is already approaching a critical stage with just three events to be completed before the all-important seeding cut-off to determine the 16-player field.

Snooker’s most prestigious invitational event is scheduled to return to London’s Alexandra Palace from 10-17 January 2021 and will feature the world’s top 16 ranked players following December’s UK Championship. This period therefore includes all prize money earned at ranking events from the 2018 Scottish Open up to and including the 2020 UK Championship.

With just the final stages of the Championship League, the Northern Ireland Open and the UK Championship still to be completed by that point, already we can see who is safe and who has work to do if they are to qualify for the tournament.

The Top Two

While Judd Trump might be a runaway number one at the top of the world ranking list, the 2019 Masters champion is guaranteed to be seeded third at this year’s tournament.

This is because as is customary, defending champion Stuart Bingham will head the draw as top seed, while reigning world champion Ronnie O’Sullivan will be seeded second thanks to his Crucible triumph.

Safe Zone

Below the top two, with a cushion of over £150,000 to the closest players outside of the 16 incumbents, everyone as far down as 11th placed Ding Junhui (£374,250) looks to be safe for qualification, while both potential debutant Yan Bingtao (£293,000) and David Gilbert (£289,500) are both also well-placed.

Two-time champion Mark Williams (£259,750) is currently more vulnerable with £40,000 separating the Welshman and 17th position, but remains in control of his own destiny at this stage.

Danger Zone

Below him however and the battle is wide-open with just barely £34,000 separating eight places from 15-22 positions and significant prize money still to be won at the UK Championship in particular.

Currently just inside of the cut are Thepchaiya Un-Nooh (£224,000) and Gary Wilson (£221,000), with the pair both looking to qualify for the tournament for the first time this year.

Just £1,250 behind Wilson however is 17th placed Jack Lisowski (£219,750), with recent Crucible semi-finalist Anthony McGill (£209,500) also within striking distance behind.

Further back are the likes of Graeme Dott (£194,250), Ali Carter (£193,500), Joe Perry (£193,000) and Barry Hawkins (£189,750) who can also not be discounted.

The next counting event will be the Championship League (Winner’s Group) from 26-30 October which you can follow via WST.

Article by Matt Huart (@ProSnookerBlog).