Welsh Open 2010: White stunned by marvellous McCulloch

After a relatively quiet first couple of days at Prestatyn for the Welsh Open qualifiers, today saw some brilliant matches, none more so than that involvind Jimmy White and Ian McCulloch…

Please click here to view the updated draw.

Ian McCulloch has struggled for form over the last few seasons and trailing the ever-popular Jimmy White 4-0 at the mid-session interval, a third opening match defeat of the season looked to be a certainty. Incredibly however he managed to win frame five by just a single point before adding the next three to force what was to be a tense decider. Both had their chances to win it but with all the balls potted they could still not be separated, forcing a re-spotted black which was eventually downed by former world number 16 Ian McCulloch.

Ian’s comeback against another legend John Parrott during the Grand Prix qualifiers earlier this season from 4-1 down was impressive enough but I can only imagine how much he celebrated this one at Pontin’s! Though the ranking points on offer here may be relatively low it is nevertheless a useful win and he will have the chance to bag more points still against Barry Hawkins as he bids to retain his place inside the top 48. For Jimmy though this is another crushing disappointment after his non-performance at the Masters earlier this month. He will now have to look forward to the China Open qualifiers as he too looks for all-important ranking points.

In fact it was a good day for players from Preston in deciding frames as PSB favourite Stuart Pettman joined Ian in the last 48 by defeating the in-form Robert Milkins to win just his second match of the season. It was Milkins who made the better start, breaks of 66 and 47 putting him 2-0 in front before Stuart hit back with a three frame burst to turn the tables. From there it was a close run thing as they traded frames but eventually Stuart got over the line thanks to a run of 44. Stuart will now play Dave Harold tomorrow as he looks to reach his first venue since making it to the China Open semi-finals almost a year ago.

While eight players from the first round made it through to the third, just two have so far made it through to the fourth. The first of these is Li Hang, a player that readers will know I was very impressed with during his opening year on the tour and after being forced to miss the Shanghai Masters earlier this year, is back in the winning habit in 2009/10. His latest win came at the expense of Redcar’s Mike Dunn as he recovered from 4-2 down to win in a deciding frame for a third time this season. His provisional ranking remains perilous but having been unlucky to miss out on Shanghai and also to draw an inspired Tony Drago in the UK qualifiers, I hope he can do enough to earn a third year on the tour.

Speaking of Drago, it was he who became the second first round qualifier to progress to the last 48 today as he finally managed to go beyond the third round. His latest victim was Jimmy Michie and now ‘only’ Gerard Greene stands between Tony and a place at Newport…

For the other lower ranked player however it was a tough day as Craig Steadman, Anda Zhang, Thepchaiya un-Nooh, Xiao Guodong and Matt Selt all saw their tournament come to an end. Once again former world champion Ken Doherty was in good form as he defeated Guodong to continue his progress back up the rankings and book an intriguing tie with Graeme Dott in the progress, while other veterans such as Anthony Hamilton and Marcus Campbell also progressed.

Six-Red World Champion Mark Davis maintained his strong form with a good win over Andy Hicks while fellow SightRight players Tom Ford and Barry Pinches also recorded important victories, both in deciding frames to make it an excellent day for coach Steve Feeney.

For the day’s results in full, please click here to visit Global Snooker.