The 2015 World Masters is so much more than just another bowls competition – but what exactly is riding on it?
What has the draw for the World Masters meant for the event favourites? Who are the contenders for the Order of Merit Crown? How does the draw affect the Race to the World Cup?
The standout group for many, Group 38, sees the current UK Open, Irish and World Singles Champions go head to head. At least one of them is sure to miss out on qualification for the Main Knockout, however the way the draw works they could meet again in the final – will it be a repeat of the recent Irish National Singles Championship?
Home talents Aidan Conroy, Raymond Stubbs, Mark Beattie and Jal Richardson are probably favourites to progress through their respective Groups, as is three times SMPT Champion Joe Beattie. Fellow Irish players William Boggs Jnr, Gary McNabb, Stuart McSorley and Don McNamara will be backed to join them in the Main Knockout competition.
Some of Europe’s promising youngsters are drawn against each other with England’s Jack Pye facing Ireland’s Shane Hand (Group 25), whilst Sweden’s Jonas Hager and Ireland’s Shauna O’Neill are sure to provide a stern test for their seasoned opponents in Group 28.
Former SMPT Irish Open winner Andrew Leckey and the defending World Masters Champion Gerry McCabe will have their work cut out to see off the challenge of their rivals. Groups 13 and 14 appear very tough to call with a number of internationals and current British Isles and World Champions – will these groups be determined by the head-to-head rule?
You can watch the recorded draw, study all the groups and view the knockout draws for the Main, Plate and Wooden Spoon competitions on our website: http://shortmatplayerstour.com/world-masters-2015-draw-002614/
Even though there are a possible 165 ranking points available for the winner of the World Masters, only the top 3 players in the rankings can finish the season as the number one player in the world and earn the coveted Order of Merit Crown, currently held by Cecil Dillon. Will it be leader Mark Beattie, second placed Jal Richardson or third placed Andrew Morrison?
The Order of Merit Champion will win the title, £250 and will start next season as number one in the newly developed rankings system. This year, courtesy of the Order of Merit sponsors Henselite, there are also prizes for the players who finish 2nd and 3rd in the rankings. Every player from England’s Dom Reed (10th) up to Mark Beattie (1st) still has a chance of finishing in the top three positions and claiming one of these three fantastic prizes.
We recently took an in-depth look at the players vying for the 4 World Cup spots for their respective countries: http://shortmatplayerstour.com/world-masters-race-to-the-world-cup-002598/
But how has the World Masters draw impacted on the players seeking to qualify for the 2015 World Cup? Let us take you through the teams…
Belgium: Former SMPT winner Jonathan Payne is drawn alongside the reigning Champion Gerry McCabe and John Lax, who aims to make the England team. Dimitri Payne, Jonathan’s son, will feel confident of his chances of qualifying for the Main Knockout and the possibility of becoming the top ranked Belgian player.
England: The draw has made things very interesting for the England hopefuls! With Rob Martin keeping company with Irish ‘heavyweights’ John Quinn and Kevin Conroy, others will feel the door is open for them to surpass him. Bronagh Toleman could play a part in preventing Dom Reed from qualifying for the Main Knockout and in doing so, boost her own chances of making the top four. Out of the others in contention, the 2013 European Masters Champion Chris Mann might feel the draw has been kindest to him.
Ireland: Andrew Morrison will need to negotiate a path through his all Ireland group, which includes former SMPT finalist Nathan Haire, to be guaranteed of a World Cup spot alongside Mark Beattie and Jal Richardson. If the 2014 Order of Merit winner, Cecil Dillon, finishes in the top two of his group, it will be very tough for either of World Pairs Champions Pauline and Joe Beattie to eclipse him and make the Irish World Cup side.
Isle of Man: Of the 3 remaining spots up for grabs, Michael Collister’s 9 point advantage may prove enough to secure his World Cup qualification. Christine Holland’s group includes one of Ireland’s most decorated bowlers, Raymond Stubbs, whilst Seamus Whelan finds himself with the unenviable task of accumulating the points he requires from the very strong Group 14. Bernie and Steve Durcan will be keenly following events from home in the hope that their efforts at the English Masters are enough!
Netherlands: Despite the Dutch side having already been confirmed, Jan Reinders will be battling to earn his first ranking points of the current campaign, although Diarmuid McMahon and others lie in wait. Meanwhile, Saskia Schaft will be striving to surpass her previous personal best with a good run in the Plate competition, but first she will have to contend with an all Irish group including William Boggs Jnr.
Sweden: Former World Championship medallist Dick Almen looks best placed to make the Swedish World Cup team. Joel Hager will meet fellow internationals Stephen Gale (Isle Of Man) and Dan Winmill (England), as well as Owen Kelly, who defeated John Quinn in this event last year. Jorgen Karlsson, who is currently in 2nd spot, will come up against in form Stuart McSorley and the experienced Noel Graham. In Group 35, both Rosa Albrektsson (6th) and Lars Hansen (8th) will have to play the newly crowned Irish Pairs Champion Sean Conroy – will they be distracted by their attempts to secure World Cup qualification?
Wales: Sam Harvey (3rd) looks a good bet to qualify for the Main Knockout from Group 16 and with it cement his position in the Welsh team. If Aled Humphreys (4th) betters the results achieved by compatriot Andrew Jones (7 points behind in 5th), then it is likely he will complete the Welsh line-up. Andrew’s group includes Marty McNichol and Gary Burke who both qualified for the Main Knockout in the 2014 Wold Masters. Chris Davies and current World Fours Champion Nick Evans will be reliant on others above them faltering and therefore they are outsiders to finish in Wales’ top four.
Rest Of The World: Three players who can qualify for the Rest Of The World team have entered the 2015 World Masters. German pair Erika Wachholz and Andreas Hahn, and Denmark’s Bent Nielsen. Bent, who holds a 25 point lead over Erika and a 31 point lead over Andreas, will start as favourite to secure a place at the World Cup. Bent will face stiff opposition in Group 37, and none more so than from Ireland’s Cecil Dillon and Scott Jess. Erika has an uphill struggle to improve on her position with several difficult matches in Group 6 – but will Andreas be able to capitalise on her draw and get the points he requires to make the team?