Ian McCulloch
Ian McCulloch gives his views on this week's Wyldecrest Park Homes Players Championship Grand Final.

 

MATCH SCHEDULE

 

The final on Saturday March 29 has sold out but tickets for all other sessions are still available. To book, call the Guild Hall box office on 0844 844 7710 between 10am-5.30pm or online at www.prestonguildhall.com 24 hours a day.

 

The tournament at the Guild Hall in Preston runs from Tuesday to Saturday with a top prize of £100,000 up for grabs, contested by the likes of O'Sullivan, Neil Robertson, Ding Junhui, Judd Trump, John Higgins and Shaun Murphy.

 

Preston's McCulloch enjoyed an impressive career on the green baize for 20 years before retiring in 2012. He reached two ranking event finals - including the 2004 Grand Prix at the Guild Hall - as well as the semi-finals of the World Championship in 2005.

 

"I loved playing at the Guild Hall in front of my own patch, it was special for me," said McCulloch. "When there were 600 or so people watching it inspired me."

 

Here's his look ahead to some of the key first round matches:

 

Shaun Murphy v Neil Robertson - Tuesday March 25 7pm
It's a very tough draw for both of them and I can see it going 4-3 either way. Shaun is in great form having just won the Haikou World Open and he doesn't fear anyone. Neil is world number one and he's made 92 centuries this season. I made 105 in my whole career which shows how good the guys are these days.

 

Ronnie O'Sullivan v Scott Donaldson - Wednesday March 26, session starts 1pm
Ronnie is the man to beat but not enough players stand up to him. There are a few who have had chances to put him under the cosh, and they don't take them. Stuart Bingham stood up to him in the Champion of Champions final, though he lost, and again at the UK Championship where he beat him. Players shouldn't be fearing him, they should be looking forward to the chance to beat him.

 

Judd Trump v Ju Reti - Tuesday March 25, session starts 7pm
It's a big ask for Ju because he has never played in these type of conditions before with a big crowd and the TV cameras in his face. It catches some people out so let's see how it affects him. Judd won the UK Championship in 2011 playing a lot of low percentage shots, and when they stop going in you get a few scars. It's a learning curve for him and he's still young. I wouldn't be surprised if he won the title this week or at the World Championship.

 

John Higgins v Jimmy Robertson - Tuesday March 25, session starts 1pm
John has reached a couple of quarter-finals recently and he's starting to look a threat, especially when he beat Judd from 4-0 down in Haikou. Class is permanent and he is still a great player. He's always hard to beat because he plays the right shot no matter what the situation.

 

Ding Junhui v Ben Woollaston - Tuesday March 25, 1pm
What Ding has done this season - winning four ranking titles and reaching another final - is phenomenal when you consider the strength in depth in the game. The last player to win that many was Stephen Hendry, and in his day there weren't as many good players. Ben pulls out some results that you don't expect now and then but he needs to put pressure on from the start. Otherwise Ding will eat him for breakfast.

 

Mark Selby v David Gilbert - Wednesday March 26, session starts 7pm
Mark is rock solid, very consistent and he commits to shots without any fear of missing. I've always rated David highly, he has under-achieved so far but he's got time to put that right. It will be interesting to see whether a dark horse comes through this week.

 

You can be there to see these matches live - book now!