O'Sullivan joins the Crucible's elite 147 club

 

RONNIE O'SULLIVAN'S second competitive 147 break earned him a £147,000 bonus, plus the £18,000 highest break prize (unless there is another maximum in the next fortnight) as he beat Mick Price 10-6 to reach the last 16 of the World Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield yesterday.

Only Cliff Thorburn, Jimmy White and Stephen Hendry had previously made maximums on snooker's most famous stage.

O'Sullivan, the most precocious talent the game has seen, made his first century when he was 10 and his first public 147 in the English Amateur Championship five years later.

When he is in prime form he can make snooker seem absurdly easy. He did yesterday as he potted 15 reds, IS blacks and all the colours in a mere five minutes and 20 seconds, shattering the record for the fastest maximum of seven minutes and nine seconds set by James Wattana in the 1992 British Open.

I knew there was a maximum on when I was on nine. The balls were perfect. "The money means nothing to me I don't spend fortunes, I have got a cheap life-style I buy a car every year and that's about it. I've bought a house that's paid for. I'm going to buy my Mum's and my Dad's for them."

O'Sullivan's feat seemed inconceivable when he was making all sorts of mistakes to trail 4-3, at which point his highest break was 28. He came to life with runs of 60 and 82 to lead 5-4 overnight and improved that to 8-5, chiefly through runs of 91,86 and 74 before his maximum brought the crowd to its feet.

"I haven't done one in practice for ages. All my breaks seem to go smoothly. When I'm playing well the game is not hard. That's the way I see it. But when you're struggling it's an absolute nightmare.

"I was playing so well on the practice table I didn't expect to lose a frame. When I was missing I was wondering, What's happening here? It was a bit frustrating when I was out there last night.

"But when you feel good and you're putting a lot of work in you know that it's going to happen. It comes when you need it. I just felt I was doing enough to win.

O'Sullivan's life changed five years ago when his father was jailed for life.

"Things happen," the 21-year-old O'Sullivan said. "It puts you out a bit but you come to terms with it.

O'Sullivan trained and dieted off threes it ones during the summer. His regime has yielded two titles this season, the Asian Classic and the German Open, and places in two other major finals. His frustration at not being able to produce, at will, the form of which he knows he is capable has also led to defeat by players blessed with only a fraction of his ability but when he is in the groove, as he proved yesterday, he is an authentic superstar.

Darren Morgan, who had little heart for snooker for several months following his mother's death in November, safeguarded his place in the top 16 in the end of season rankings by beating Gary Wilkinson 10-5. This ensures that he will appear at the Crucible and in the Masters at Wembley next season Steve Davis cruised into he second round last night after a 10-2 winner over Crucible Theatre debutant David McLellan. Davis now faces Irishman Ken Doherty for a place in the quarter-finals.

Despite being a little below par, Davis was far too strong for the world number 106 from Scotland. He led 6-2 after a truncated first session and then came out last night to reel off the four frames he required in only 72 minutes, despite a top break of only 48.