Two ranking tournaments into the 2015/16 campaign, already it is possible to identify some of the players who are sure of being on the main tour next season and perhaps more importantly, those whose places are at real risk.
With every pound, dollar or euro to be earned during the remainder of this season likely to be crucial, today I take my customary look at the likely qualification criteria and look at some of those to follow over the coming months…
- Click here to view the latest provisional end of season rankings
- Click here to view the latest European Order of Merit
- 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 (2014/15), and from the current 2015/16 season.
This differs from the official rolling world ranking list, which still includes points from the 2013/14 season, which 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 position to re-qualify through the European/Asian Order of Merit (explained below), will be relegated from the tour.
Already therefore, while we might only be two events into the new 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 2016/17 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 2015/16 and 2016/17 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 2014/15 campaign, or who began their two-year tour cards at the start of 2014/15, must regain their place for the 2016/17 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 three ways for those players at risk to retain their tour cards for the 2016/17 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 2015/16 season.
Traditionally the cut-off point for tour survival, the top 64 will again remain on tour at the end of this season.
What is the cut-off point likely to be in terms of prize money? In 2014 the 64th placed man hung on with £48,692, while last year this rose to £54,582 as Joe Swail edged out Nigel Bond after the World Championship qualifiers. With prize money having risen this year, but the Wuxi Classic and Indian Open events having dropped off the calendar, I would expect the final amount to perhaps be somewhere in between these two figures.
At the time of writing, China’s Yu Delu currently holds onto 64th place with £27,850 to his name on the provisional end of season rankings.
These players will earn a one-year card for the 2016/17 season.
- By finishing in the top eight of the European Order of Merit, not already qualified for the main tour
This route is available to both amateurs (such as Sean O’Sullivan last year), and those finishing outside of the top 64 on the official world ranking list who are not currently on the first year of a two-year tour card.
In practice, this can provide a good way for players who have joined the tour a year earlier and initially struggled for results, only to improve during their second year but too late to earn a place inside the top 64 on the main ranking list.
At the time of writing with two of the season’s six European Tour events completed, those currently in place to earn tour places via this route are:
- Ian Burns
- Stuart Carrington
- Scott Donaldson
- Thor Chuan Leong
- Lee Walker
- Aditya Mehta
- Joel Walker
- Hammad Miah (a), Peter Lines, Tian Pengfei (all currently tied)
The eight players who finish in these positions at the end of this season will earn a two-year card for the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons.
- By finishing in the top two of the Asian Order of Merit, not already qualified for the main tour
This is a change for this season as set out during my previous post in light of the reduction of Asian Tour events to be held this season.
Should there just be one such event held (as would currently appear likely), this could see the two finalists earn tour cards, or more likely semi-finalists or quarter-finalists depending on results in China.
If a player were able to qualify through both the Asian and European lists, as Scott Donaldson and Sean O’Sullivan have in recent years, expect that player to take their place through the Asian list as that series is set to conclude prior to the European Tour in Gdynia next year.
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.
Last season the biggest example of such a player was Marcus Campbell, who of course did drop off the tour back in May and this time the obvious player looks to be current world number 52 Aditya Mehta.
Despite what would appear to be a comfortable position, due to the fact that the prize money that he won by reaching the final of the 2013 Indian Open is soon to be removed from his world ranking, in reality he is currently on course to finish the season down in 73rd position.
The biggest name with work to do meanwhile is Anthony Hamilton, officially ranked 63rd but provisionally down in 74th position following his recent struggles.
Other players currently ranked inside of the top 64, but provisionally in danger of dropping out at the end of the season are Cao Yupeng, Stuart Carrington and Peter Lines, while Gerard Greene will also find himself in trouble following the removal of the prize money he earned at the 2014 Players Championship Grand Finals.
Looking to rise however are the likes of Sam Baird, Liam Highfield, Craig Steadman, Zhou Yuelong and Oliver Lines, who are currently all provisionally on course to break into the top 64 for the first time by the end of the current season.
Of course though there is still a lot of prize money still available and currently being outside of the top 64, these players will continue to face tougher draws (on paper at least), until such a time as they are to break into that all-important bracket.
If you have any questions, please do drop me a tweet @prosnookerblog or leave a comment below.