RONNIE O’SULLIVAN wasted little time in seeing off Barry Pinches at the BetVictor Welsh Open on Tuesday night to set up a last-32 clash with Xiao Guodong.
The Rocket saw a 147 maximum break attempt fall short on 104 and the penultimate red in the first frame of the evening at the Newport Centre.
That could have earned O’Sullivan £10,000 – and put him clear at the top of the all-time list ahead of Stephen Hendry, who has also made 11.
And though Pinches avoided a whitewash he made far too many errors to offer a meaningful challenge to the reigning and five-time world champion.
This season’s Shanghai Masters finalist Guodong, an accomplished player these days, seems certain to offer stronger resistance as O’Sullivan goes chasing a fourth title of the season.
O’Sullivan has provoked some reaction from some of the other leading players with his comments that the game was “in trouble if a part-timer like me is winning big titles”.
But the stark fact remains that O’Sullivan won the world title last May after taking almost an entire season away from the sport.
And even this year, limiting his appearances, the 38-year-old O’Sullivan has lifted the trophy at the inaugural Champion of Champions event, claimed a fifth Masters crown and won the Paul Hunter Classic in Germany.
He said: “I would have liked to have made the maximum for the fans, but I knew Mark Selby made one at the UK so there wasn’t a lot of money on the table, £10,000 or something.
“It would have been nice to get a 12th and go top of the list but I wasn’t overly bothered, but the crowd were great and I love this venue and tournament.
“Xiao is a brilliant player and beat me in a PTC in Ireland, he got to the final in Shanghai and is breaking through towards the top 16. It will be a tough match.
“I didn’t play from the Masters to my first-round match here so I really wasn’t sharp, it was okay tonight.
“I have probably played half as much as anyone else so it is important to get results when I do play. I play in what I feel like I want to play in.
“It would probably be easier to click into gear if I played more but that is a decision I have made and it is a trade-off.”
Elsewhere Champion of Champions finalist Stuart Bingham beat Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh 4-2 and will now play Michael Holt for a place in the last 16.
Ricky Walden beat Matt Selt 4-2 and next plays Anthony Hamilton.
Photographs by Monique Limbos