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'It was frightening… wow', says O'Sullivan live on TV after banking £250,000

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RONNIE O’SULLIVAN reckons “it’s frightening” that there’ll be an £800,000 golden ball prize in Saudi Arabia next year.

And he also believes a future world snooker champion could emerge from the Middle Eastern nation.

Ronnie O'Sullivan has reacted to the £800,000 Golden Ball jackpot in Saudi Arabia next year

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Ronnie O’Sullivan has reacted to the £800,000 Golden Ball jackpot in Saudi Arabia next year

The Rocket has flown home with the World Masters of Snooker trophy in his luggage after hitting six centuries across three matches in Riyadh.

The seven-time world champion also received a £250,000 winners’ cheque to go with his decent appearance fee at the inaugural event.

But neither Ronnie or his rivals were able to land the first 167 break in snooker history.

Potting the 20-point Gold Ball after a 147 maximum and achieving a break of 167 carried a prize of just under £400,000 but that feat never happened.

Only one person, John Higgins, got close to that accomplishment but he failed to sink the final yellow after punters disrupted his concentration.

For 2025, the prize for a 167 has been doubled to a grotesque £800,000 by cash-rich Saudi official Turki Alalshikh, who revealed the news in the post-match ceremony.

O’Sullivan, who plays next at the World Open in China, said: “It was frightening. When he said that, I thought: Wow. It’s unbelievable.

“Great stuff there from the big boss. It’s good for snooker.

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“I love the culture there. I fit in perfectly. They are very relaxed, they take life at a nice leisurely place. The work still gets done.

“It’s laidback and it suits my personality very well. I cannot wait to come back.”

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Crowds improved significantly for the semis and final – there was hardly anyone there for Monday’s prelims – but that is down to the Ronnie X-Factor.

The world No.1 looked surprised when it was announced by an official after his 5-2 final win over Luca Brecel that there would be academy opened in the desert nation in his name.

O’Sullivan, 48, said: “They love the game here. They are on about trying to open some academies, get some good coaches over here.

“Try and get a lot of these youngsters playing the game. You never know, you could have a Saudi world champion in 20 years’ time.”

Of course, it would take a lot of time, effort and luck for someone to come through that good, especially in a region with no baize tradition.

And to put it into historical context, only three men in the Crucible era have won the world title from outside the UK or Ireland.

At least the petrodollars will continue to flow in from Saudi pockets as the World Snooker Tour stars all gushed about how great the event was and is for the sport.

Fellow finalist Brecel added: “I’ve enjoyed these last few days. The venue is amazing. The crowd has been fantastic.

“Ever since I landed in Saudi, I felt like the people are really, really nice. I’m grateful to be able to play here. Hopefully it will be here for a long time.”

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