The always colourful and at times controversial Ronnie O'Sullivan once left snooker chief Barry Hearn fuming at the 2016 Welsh Open. The Rocket faced Barry Pinches in the opening round, and during the match refused a glorious opportunity to make a maximum break, which would have earned him £10,000.
The snooker legend scoffed at the prize, branding it as “too cheap,” before potting the pink off the penultimate red and went on to make a score of 146, just one short of the 147 maximum. This was not taken well by Hearn who was left seething after O’Sullivan’s actions, which he branded “unacceptable” and “disrespectful.”
“Most people don't understand 10 k not meaning anything! Fact is we have a lot of 147 breaks and the prize money reflects that,” he told a fan on Twitter at the time. "It's a shame that punters who buy tickets and tv fans who watch did not have the pleasure of seeing a maximum break.
“Players have a duty to the fans to deliver the best standard and entertainment they can. Anything less than playing to your best ability is unacceptable and disrespectful to the paying public. This is not crime but a shame.”
The following year, a week after O’Sullivan spurned the chance of a maximum break in the 2017 World Championship, Hearn ruled out a return to snooker’s days of paying out huge jackpots for 147 breaks and urged anyone who complains to 'get out of the sport.' “The fact is that a 147, whether we like it or not, and we can be romantic about it, isn’t as significant as it was in the old days because we have so many of them,” Hearn said.
“But if a professional player who is there not just to win games but to play to the best of his ability for whatever reason either turns down or doesn’t try for one, then I am disgusted with their lack of professionalism.
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“If this game is only about money, if it’s just about a few bob, in a world where the prize money has changed from £3.5m to £12m and greedy people still can moan, frankly they should get out of the sport."
O’Sullivan delivered perhaps the greatest break seen when he made a maximum in just five minutes and 20 seconds in the 1997 tournament, for which he banked a £147,000 bonus plus the £18,000 high-break prize.
In the ongoing 2022 Snooker World Championship at The Crucible, the six-time champion's quest continues for a seventh title continues when he faces Stephen Maguire in the quarter-finals.