Tour Survival 2017: The Early Running

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It might seem like early days in the 2016/17 season, but with three ranking events already concluded and another to follow next week, already we can start to speculate as to which players have work to do if they are to remain on tour beyond the end of this season.

With every pound, dollar or euro to be earned between now and next May likely to be crucial, today I take my annual early look at the likely qualification criteria and consider who might find themselves in danger over the coming months…

  • Click here to view the latest provisional end of season rankings
  • Click here to view the indicative prize money schedule for 2015/16
  • Click here to view my guide to the current ranking system

What is the provisional end of season ranking list?

As explained by the text at the top of the latest provisional end of season rankings page, simply put, the table includes all money earned during last season (2015/16), and from the current 2016/17 season.

This differs from the official rolling world ranking list, which still includes points from the 2014/15 season. As this money is set to be removed throughout the course of this season however, for the purposes of this list I have already removed this money as we know that it will not count towards the race for next season’s tour places.

How will tour places be decided?

At the end of this season (ie after the 2016 World Championship), all players ranked outside of the top 64, who are not currently on the first year of a two-year tour card, or (in a change for this season), one of the top eight money earners during the 2016/17 season, not already qualified, will be relegated from the tour.

Already therefore, while we might only be early in the season, in reality we are more than halfway through a two-year race will ultimately determine the players who will be on the tour for the 2017/18 campaign.


Who is already safe?

Those who do not have to worry (for this season at least), are those players who were able to earn a two-year tour card for the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons, either via the Q School, international competitions or by other means.

All of these players have been highlighted in green on the latest provisional end of season ranking list.

Who is at risk?

In short – everyone else.

All players who retained their main tour places for this season by finishing in the top 64 at the end of the 2015/16 campaign, or who began their two-year tour cards at the start of 2015/16, must earn their place for the 2017/18 season.

Of course those higher up the rankings will have nothing to worry about, but the closer they are to the all-important ‘top 64’ cut-off, the more nervous they will be.


How can players stay on tour?

Essentially, there are two ways for those players at risk to retain their tour cards for the 2017/18 season, without the need to re-qualify via Q School:

By finishing in the top 64 of the world rankings at the end of the 2016/17 season.

Traditionally the cut-off point for tour survival, the top 64 on the official world ranking list following the 2017 World Championship will retain their main tour cards.

What is the cut-off point likely to be in terms of prize money? During the past three years the world number 64 has survived with £48,692 (2014), £54,582 (2015) and last season £49,431 was enough to see Stuart Carrington survive.

This time around it is a little bit more difficult to predict than usual, as the six European Tour events and Australian Goldfields Open have been replaced by the lucrative new Home Series tournaments, while there are also other new ranking events such as the World Open, Indian Open, European Championship and Shoot Out. Combined with overall rises to prize money across the calendar, I would expect the amount required to stay on tour to rise to over £60,000 but will monitor this throughout the season.

At the time of writing, Jamie Cope currently sits in 64th place with £29,625 to his name on the provisional end of season rankings.

The 64 players will each earn a fresh one-year card for the 2017/18 season.


By finishing in the top eight of the one-year list, not already qualified for the main tour

A route that will be familiar to players and observers of the game from before the introduction of two-year tour cards, this season sees the return of the ‘one-year’ list as a means of staying on tour.

Under this route, the top eight players taking into account prize money earned solely during the 2016/17 season, who finish outside of the top 64 on the main two-year ranking list, will earn a new tour card.

This means that players out of the running on the two-year list, for example due to a poor first season (in this case 2015/16), still have a reason to enter tournaments during their second campaign, as a strong run could see them earn another shot through this route.

At the time of writing, those currently in place to earn tour places via this route are:

  1. Darren Morgan (A) (£11,250)
  2. Daniel Wells (£10,000)
  3. Akani Songsermsawad (£9,000)
  4. David Lilley (A) (£9,000)
  5. Duane Jones (£7,000)
  6. Allan Taylor (£6,525)
  7. Zhang Yong (£6,525)
  8. Robin Hull (£6,000)

*Note that Nigel Bond has earned £13,000 this season, but is currently inside of the top 64 on the provisional end of season list.

The eight players who finish in these positions at the end of this season will earn a two-year card for the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons.


What are the main points of interest?

For me, the most interesting aspect of looking ahead to this battle is identifying the players who currently look to be comfortably inside the top 64, but actually have a lot of prize money to defend. The likes of Marcus Campbell and Aditya Mehta for example have found themselves in this position during recent seasons and ultimately have fallen outside of the top 64.

Turning to this year’s standings, someone who could fall into this position is Rod Lawler. Although ranked in the seemingly comfortable position of 45th on the official list, in fact he is currently forecast to drop down to 68th and be relegated from the circuit. This is because looking at Lawler’s two-year prize money total of £75,724 after the 2016 World Championship, of that barely £20,000 was won last season. This means that he is due to lose the £54,999 that he earned during the 2014/15 season from his ranking over the coming months and must therefore see a return to form this season if he is to remain on tour.

Similarly, Jamie Burnett, Robin Hull and Yu Delu are also currently poised to drop outside of the top 64, Burnett having been an ever-present on tour since 1992.

Other notable names in real danger of falling outside of the top 64 include Gary Wilson, Joe Swail and even 1997 world champion Ken Doherty. In Wilson’s case, despite currently being ranked 39th, he faces the loss of a further £56,199, the majority of which was earned following his run to the final of the China Open last year. Doherty meanwhile has a hole over over £30,000 to plug if he is to retain his long unbroken spell on the circuit.

Even the likes of Kurt Maflin (£32,450), Matthew Stevens (£35,075) and Xiao Guodong (£35,750) cannot yet be considered safe, although all have boosted their respective positions in recent weeks having enjoyed solid starts to the new season.

Of course there is a huge amount of prize money available for all of these players to win during the remainder of the season and their fates remain very much in their own hands. It will though be interesting to see who follow this section of the rankings over the coming months and see whether those currently in danger are able to respond, or whether we will in fact see some big names drop off the tour come next spring…