DOMINIC DALE won the 888 Casino Shootout tournament at Blackpool’s Circus Arena on Sunday night to become snooker’s newest speed king.
Known as The Spaceman on tour for his showmanship and occasionally eccentric behaviour, the 42-year-old Dale beat Stuart Bingham 77-19 in the final to pick up the £32,000 winner's cheque.
And world No29 Dale, with two ranking event wins and a PTC success four years ago already on his CV, celebrated with a bravura performance of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ in the arena.
Dale, a professionally trained singer, revelled in the unique atmosphere generated at the single-frame tournament with a shot-clock dropping to just 10 seconds more than most.
And offered the platform to interact with the crowd allied to quick thinking, good tactics and a strong game he used the combination to great effect.
As well as the in-form Bingham Dale also accounted for Mark Allen, former winner Barry Hawkins, Fergal O’Brien, Andrew Higginson and Ryan Day.
Earlier in the quarter-finals Dale had beaten Andrew Higginson 81-1 with breaks of 41 and 40, while Bingham edged past Matthew Stevens by a single point at 34-33.
Day beat Kurt Maflin 105-7 with the only century of the event, a break of 101, to snatch the £2,000 high-break prize – and Graeme Dott beat Mark Davis 57-7.
Dale then beat his compatriot Day 64-6 to reach the final, to be joined by world No7 Bingham, 37, after he saw off Dott 62-0.
The tide seemed to be with Dale, getting plenty of support from the sell-out crowd, and a superb long blue helped him to a break of 61 which proved the difference, though Bingham missed a simple pink when handed a chance to hit back.
The Shootout, in its fourth renewal, delivered once again its enjoyable curate’s egg of high-octane action, great pots, wild misses and tactical running down of the clock.
There is certainly room for one of these events on the calendar, though one is probably enough.
It offers players not used to the limelight a chance to shine, but also missed the star quality of the absent Ronnie O’Sullivan, Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui and Judd Trump. They don’t have to win it, but it is better if they are in it.
Inside Snooker was struck this year by the number of players who still appear to want to play the quickest shot rather than the best shot.
Rob Milkins tweeted something to this effect near the start of the event, saying: “Don’t back quick players, back quick thinkers.” Jack Lisowski, arguably the fastest player on tour, was one perhaps guilty of this in his defeat to Robbie Williams.
One big plus this year was the Sky commentary of Jimmy White after an early exit, who apart from knowing the game inside out adds unmatched enthusiasm.
If anyone in snooker has an excuse to be mildly cynical over what fate has dished up to him it is White, yet he remains one of the most genuine people you could wish to meet.
Listening to the Whirlwind was a bit like watching a football manager on the touchline trying to head every cross into the net. You could almost hear him playing the shot.
Photograph courtesy of World Snooker