The seven-time world champion has compared his Class of 92 snooker rival to golfer Phil Mickelson, who has recently lost popularity during his sport’s fierce civil war
Ronnie O’Sullivan has hailed Mark Williams as snooker ‘s answer to Phil Mickelson, tipping the Welshman to replicate the six-time major winner by claiming a huge title late in his career.
O’Sullivan, Williams and John Higgins make up snooker’s heralded ‘Class of 92’, the legendary trio who have resided at the top of the rankings for three decades. They are often compared to the ‘Big Three’ in tennis of Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal due to their remarkable longevity and dominance on the green baize.
World No.1 O’Sullivan, 46, created history by matching Stephen Hendry’s magnificent seven Crucible titles and is now considered the greatest to ever wield a cue. But he is never short of praise for his two great rivals Higgins and Williams, who made up the semi-final lineup at this year’s Sheffield showpiece alongside former champion Judd Trump.
Williams will turn 48 before the next World Championship but O’Sullivan believes he is now better than ever and can compete for his fourth world title. “He is a much stronger player now than he ever has been,” O’Sullivan told Eurosport at the Northern Ireland Open.
“He reminds me of Phil Mickelson. He has so much talent, so much game, a winner. He has got everything. Mickelson won the US PGA at 50. It wouldn’t surprise me if he won another World Championship. He is that good. He is good under pressure, and just looks so good out there enjoying it.”
Mickelson’s PGA Championship triumph at Kiawah Island aged 50 made him the oldest player to win one of golf’s four prestigious majors. He has only been bettered by Tiger Woods in his era, and comparisons with Williams are appropriate given both perform their art with such ease and nonchalance, using their gifted talents to thrill crowds.
However, the popularity each have in their respective sports is in complete contrast. Mickelson has become golf’s unlikely pariah for his defection to the controversial LIV rebel series, plus his inflammatory comments on the human right abuses of its financial backers in Saudi Arabia. Williams, meanwhile, remains one of the loved snooker players on the circuit for his relaxed style on and off the table.
“There is no situation you put him in that he can’t handle,” O’Sullivan added. “He could out-safety John Higgins, he could out-pot anyone and can outscore anybody. He is an all-time great, he really is. An amazing player. He is great to watch, I have always loved watching him play.”
O’Sullivan and Williams are both competing at this week’s Northern Ireland Open in Belfast, with the winner claiming the £80,000 top prize in Sunday’s final.