Five-time world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan will be the star attraction next week when the Coral Players’ Championship takes place at the Guild Hall in Preston.
‘Rocket Ronnie’ headlines a list of the 16 best players in the world, which also includes world No.1 Mark Selby, current world champion Mark Williams and four-time world champion John Higgins.
Only the leading 16 players from the one-year ranking list have qualified for the £380,000 world ranking event at the iconic venue.
The ITV-televised tournament is the second of three events in the 2019 Coral Snooker Series and begins at 7 pm on Monday, March 4, and concludes with the final on Sunday, March 10.
O’Sullivan has always enjoyed playing at the Guild Hall and cites the venue as one of his favourite places to play.
Indeed at the age of 17, he announced himself to the world when he won the UK Championships – beating Stephen Hendry in the final – when it was held in Preston.
“The Guild Hall is one of the biggest and the best venues I have played at,” said O’Sullivan.
“The fans were always great. I always remember playing to packed crowds.”
O’Sullivan begins his quest for the title when he takes on Barry Hawkins in the opening round.
Number one seed Mark Allen has been drawn against Stephen Maguire, while arguably the tie of the round is Selby’s clash against Higgins.
A spokesman for World Snooker said: “It’s an incredibly strong field with the great names of modern snooker in the draw.
“Some of the first-round matches would grace the final of any tournament –, in fact Mark Selby and John Higgins met in the World Championship final two years ago.
“We are delighted to be heading back to Preston Guild Hall, where major snooker tournaments have been staged since 1978.
“We know how much the fans in Lancashire love sport, and the players know it is one of the best arenas on the circuit.”
The full draw (seedings in brackets): Mark Allen (1) v Stephen Maguire (16), David Gilbert (8) v Stuart Bingham (9), Ronnie O’Sullivan (5) v Barry Hawkins (12), Mark Selby (4) v John Higgins (13), Neil Robertson (3) v Joe Perry (14), Mark Williams (6) v Ali Carter (11), Kyren Wilson (7) v Jack Lisowski (10), Judd Trump (2) v Jimmy Robertson (15).