Ronnie O’Sullivan will bank a £40,000 bonus if he can add to his record haul of 147 maximum breaks at next week’s English Open.
This is the prize for any player achieving a maximum clearance when the tournament cues off at the Barnsley Metrodome on Monday.
Once I get halfway through the break my heart starts racing.Ronnie O’Sullivan
O’Sullivan famously banked a £147,000 bonus, plus £18,000 high-break prize for his World Championship maximum in 1997 – a feat he achieved in a record time of five minutes and 20 seconds.
But, more infamously, made a 146 break – opting for the pink over the black after the 13th red – at the Crucible last season, in what some perceived to be a deliberate snub of the more modest prize of £5,000. O’Sullivan currently holds the record for 13 maximum breaks.
Snooker chiefs have bumped up the 147 prize to £40,000 in a tournament that offers £70,000 to the winner.
“There’s nothing like making a 147 in front of a big crowd; they get more excited about that than they do when you win a tournament,” said O’Sullivan.
“Once I get halfway through the break my heart starts racing.”
Victory in Barnsley next week would see the five-time world champion go level with John Higgins on 29 ranking titles, but still trailing Stephen Hendry’s total of 36.
Not that O’Sullivan is obsessed with records these days.
“I just enjoy playing, and if I don’t win another tournament then it won’t stop me from playing,” he said.
“I don’t look at records. I’m blessed to have won what I have.”
Snooker has been transformed under World Snooker boss Barry Hearn, and is a far cry from the sport that O’Sullivan entered over two decades ago.
He believes the top six of that era – Hendry, Steve Davis, John Higgins, Jimmy White, Mark Williams and himself – would beat the current top six, including the likes of world No 1 Mark Selby, Ding Junhui, Judd Trump and Shaun Murphy. But he also reckons the strength in depth in the modern game.
“Back then there were players in the top 16 who could barely make a century, but now everyone scores heavily. It’s a different game now,” said O’Sullivan, who plays either Ian Burns or Zhang Anda in the first round at Barnsley on Tuesday evening.
“But the rest of the players in the top 40 now are much stronger. Me, John Higgins and Mark Williams all came through at the same time and we pushed each other to get better. Higgins is the toughest opponent I’ve ever faced.”