JOHN HIGGINS’S CAPTURE of the Australian Goldfields Open title on Sunday puts him joint third on the all-time list of ranking event winners.
Higgins beat Martin Gould 9-8 in a high quality, exciting duel in Bendigo, winning the decider with a classy run of 89.
The Scot, who turned 40 in May, thus joins Ronnie O’Sullivan on 27 career ranking titles, one behind Steve Davis’s total of 28. Stephen Hendry remains the record holder with 36 ranking titles.
These four giants of the green baize represent snooker’s Mount Rushmore for the television age, in terms of what they have cumulatively achieved.
Between them, they have won 118 ranking titles, including 22 World Championships. Throw in 16 Masters and plenty of other invitational titles and we are talking hundreds of trophies.
This is why it was always dangerous to write off Higgins as he slipped a little down the ranking list in recent times. His top 16 place was under threat last season but he secured it by capturing the Welsh Open title.
Like O’Sullivan, he cannot carry on forever but these two contemporaries reached such a high level of performance that it will take a severe decline for them to no longer compete for titles.
Given that there is not the rush of young talent flooding into the game as there was two decades ago – when the likes of Higgins and O’Sullivan provided a fresh challenge for Hendry and the other top players of the time – then there is no reason why they shouldn’t be good for a few years yet, into their mid 40s.
In some ways it is harder than ever to win tournaments. The world no.50 now is a much better player than the world no.50 25 years ago.
With so many tournaments, form will come and go. There will be peaks and troughs. There will be setbacks and frustrations.
But what doesn’t diminish is class. Inside the body of all the great champions of sport beats a heart loaded with determination and belief. With the chips down, with the odds against, they produce to a higher level than the rest.
That was Davis, it was Hendry, it is O’Sullivan and it’s Higgins too.
Higgins was 19 when he won his first ranking title. 40 must have seemed a long way away then. Now, 21 years on he has proved he is still a force in the game – as much to himself as to the wider sport.
Photographs by Monique Limbos.