Higgins swaps potting for putting and takes Crucible inspiration from golf star MacIntyre

Sportsbeat
·4-min read
In-form Higgins loved watching compatriot MacIntyre, 24, tie for 12th in Georgia last weekend
In-form Higgins loved watching compatriot MacIntyre, 24, tie for 12th in Georgia last weekend

Robert MacIntyre's Augusta heroics have got John Higgins dreaming of being crowned Crucible Master once more, writes Will Jennings.

And the four-time world champion believes the Oban golfer can be the next Scot in line to burst onto the scene and follow in his own glittering sporting footsteps.

Wizard of Wishaw Higgins kicks off his pursuit of a fifth World Championship title against Tian Pengfei today riding the crest of a potting – and putting – wave.

The evergreen world No.5 soared to Players Championship glory in February – his first ranking event title for more than three years – and loved watching MacIntyre, 24, hit the headlines by tying for 12th at the Masters last weekend.

Avid sports fan Higgins has lost three Crucible finals since 2017 but says taking inspiration from his fellow Scot can catapult him back to the big time on the hallowed Sheffield baize.

The 45-year-old, who kicks off his campaign against world No.53 Tian this afternoon, said: “Robert’s a brilliant player.

“He just seems like a normal young guy who’s down to earth. He looks a little bit out of place compared to the other superstars of golf.

“He just seems as though he’s your boy next door who’s just been plucked out of the local golf club to go and play.

“But what a talent, what a talent he’s got for the sport. He’s going to be the next one coming after [Colin] Montgomerie, Sam Torrance and Sandy Lyle hopefully.

“It would be great if he could win a major soon – that would be amazing.

“I’m looking forward to [the World Championship]. I know we’ve been coming here for some other smaller events over the years, but it hasn’t been like that this year.

“We’ve been nowhere close to Sheffield but this year it’s like the old days – you drive it and you’re like: ‘my god’. The nerves are always here when you drive in.

“I’d say as you get older, the nerves get worse and maybe affect you a little bit more. When you walk in here the butterflies just hit you again, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Higgins, a 31-time ranking event winner, has endured a bumpy few years on the hectic World Snooker Tour but scooped his first trophy since the 2018 Welsh Open at this year’s Players Championship.

The Scot delivered a dazzling display to topple six-time Crucible king Ronnie O’Sullivan 10-3 in the final and re-emerge as a key contender heading into the business end of the season.

Higgins was unable to claim a third Masters title in Milton Keynes this year – he went down to Chinese prodigy Yan Bingtao in the final – and lost three consecutive Crucible finals between 2017 and 2019.

He suffered narrow defeats against Mark Selby and Mark Williams before running into a rampant Judd Trump in the 2019 showpiece.

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Winning a first world title since 2011 would put Higgins one behind O’Sullivan on the all-time list and the nine-time Triple Crown winner admits for all his finest cueing accolades, that would top the lot.

“It would be my best ever achievement winning it for the fifth time ten years after the last time I played Judd [in 2011],” added Higgins.

“Obviously I know I’ve lost in three finals – with my hand on heart, I can say the one against Selby I let go but the other two they were the better player in the final.

“If I can play well over the 17 days here, I’ve got a chance.

“They’re all tough [matches], and I’ve been here long enough to know there’s no easy games.

“I’ll go in there and try my hardest as normal. It’s all go now. I’ll put everything into the last event [of the season] and see where it takes me.”

Watch the World Snooker Championship live on Eurosport and Eurosport app from April 17- May 3