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Saudi Arabia doubles snooker’s ‘golden ball’ prize money to $1m – more than world champion gets

Ronnie O'Sullivan

The biggest prize in snooker history will be offered in Saudi Arabia next year when organisers will double the money for a first ‘golden ball’ maximum 167 break to $1 million.

The announcement came after Ronnie O’Sullivan won the inaugural World Masters of Snooker in Riyadh, beating Luca Brecel 5-2 to collect a prize of £250,000 for winning 13 frames – including six century breaks – across two days and three matches.

The organisers had introduced a new ‘golden ball’ for the event that was placed on the top cushion and would have been worth 20 points as the last ball potted to improve a conventional maximum 147 break to 167.

John Higgins came closest, potting 15 reds and 15 breaks, before missing an extremely difficult yellow en route to what would have been a $500,000 (£392,000) bonus.

After winning the tournament, O’Sullivan joked that “I’ll get there next year” and the chair of the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, Turki Alalshikh, immediately announced that the prize would be doubled.

“Today in this competition, no one had the golden ball,” he said. “For that, for the next competition, we will double it for $1 million (£784,000). And second thing. In Saudi Arabia, we are honoured to discuss with [Ronnie] O’Sullivan to have an academy by his name in Saudi Arabia.”

The highest prize in snooker currently is the £500,000 on offer for becoming world champion.

‘It was like we were in some sort of rave’

O’Sullivan, who has previously been critical of World Snooker’s tournament schedule, clearly enjoyed his time in Saudi Arabia. “It’s been a fantastic tournament, brilliant venue,” said the world No 1.

“These are the tournaments you want to play in – one table, great crowd, great atmosphere and the music was going in between the frames. It was like we were in some sort of rave.

“It’s been a long time since we [snooker] came to the Middle East, I think 1994, it’s far too long. We have been treated fantastically well – the culture here is fantastic. We’re grateful to come back here and play many more times.

“You want to make the sport as big as you can make it. The Saudis are a powerhouse. If anyone can inject something into snooker, it will be the people who have put on the tournament this week. I’ll take the tournament this year and then the golden ball next year. It’ll be great.”

The tournament in Saudi Arabia was an invitational event for the world’s leading players but there will be a full ranking competition in August with a prize fund of more than £2 million that is being billed by World Snooker as the sport’s “fourth major”.

Amnesty International have urged those snooker players who compete in Saudi Arabia to also speak out about human rights in the country.

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