Friday 2 December 2022

(5) Humphries, (15) Brown, (DeSL) Hempel

Luke Humphries - FRH #5, 930-639 (59.27%), 94.51 scoring (#6), 3.62 consistency
Keegan Brown - FRH #61, 284-304 (48.30%), 88.58 scoring (#62), 3.19 consistency
Florian Hempel - FRH #55, 278-308 (47.44%), 88.70 scoring (#61), 3.20 consistency

Coming in to 2022, it was looking like Keegan Brown could be one of many notable names in real danger of losing his tour card. He may still do so - he needs to win his first round game to stand any chance. But he's at least given himself a chance, as despite scoring and an FRH ranking right around that top 64 cutoff mark, indeed sub 89 scoring is very much middle of the pack for card holders, he did get a Pro Tour bink out of absolutely nowhere, without which he wouldn't be in the field it's safe to say, and he would be back at Q-School guaranteed. Indeed, even a semi final rather than the win in the event in question would have put him in a direct tie for the last spot. Still, he got it to double his tally of Players Championship wins, beating de Sousa, Webster, Peters, Baggish, Dobey, Wright and then Aspinall 8-7 in the final. A great run where he needed to beat some good players, but saying this was a fluke win doesn't seem unfair. Just four board wins on top of that title isn't the greatest track record, and he would either lose or not play in nineteen out of the thirty events. Still, he got to Minehead as a middling seed, losing in the opening game to Daryl Gurney, and would be 0-2 at Minehead for the year as he lost his opening UK Open game to Sebastian Bialecki. He had a nice cameo in an early Euro Tour event, with a quarter final run in Munich, albeit opponents of Hunt, Rydz and Razma weren't the hardest set of opponents you can face, and the disappointing floor season was shown in the qualifiers, as he only made one other European Tour event all season, losing 6-0 to Mensur Suljovic. Hopefully for Keegan, he can get this win, save his card and then rebuild in 2023 - that title was late enough that it'll count for the 2023 Matchplay, assuming he doesn't reset to zero.

And there's a fair chance of that happening, as he's drawn one of the tougher international qualifiers in Florian Hempel, who first became notable to many this time last year where he won in through the Pro Tour (as opposed to this year, where he was reliant on winning the German Super League with a 10-8 final victory over up and coming talent Niko Springer), and after sweeping compatriot Martin Schindler in the opening round, shocked the world by taking out Dimitri van den Bergh 3-1 with a very fine display. He couldn't take it any further as Raymond Smith was making his own great run in the same section, but it was a nice chunk of cash which, it's fair to say, Florian hasn't really built on in 2022. His UK Open debut wasn't bad, with a win over Lukas Wenig followed by a loss to Geert Nentjes, but the floor game's not been up there as it was last season. He only qualified for three European Tour events, only getting the one win over Bradley Brooks before Dimitri would get a revenge win, although draws against Ross Smith and Kim Huybrechts could have been kinder. His record in Pro Tours is pretty bad - he got a board win in early April, and made a best run of a quarter final in May (without hitting a single seed at any point until he lost to Michael Smith), but outside of that, it's basically been nothing, and he fell short of qualifying for the Players Championship Finals by a couple of grand. Statistically, this looks like a very close matchup - the two players can barely be separated in scoring and consistency, Florian maybe has the slightest of edges, but it's only one or two percent at most. It'll be a tight one and should be a great watch, and (checks notes) it's in the session I have a ticket for. Yay.

Luke Humphries can't complain about this draw at all, in what's been an outstanding season, first breaking through right at the start of the floor year with a win in the opening Players Championship, 8-4 over Ryan Searle, then really making his mark in Europe with four Euro Tour titles, winning over Martin Lukeman, Rob Cross twice and Rowby John Rodriguez. With a top five ranking in both the FRH scale and the official order of merit, along with two major semi finals, those titles should be enough to get him into the Premier League. It would certainly take the craziest world championship results or insanity from Sky to leave him out, after the top four he seems like the most automatic pick. Maybe Noppert would run him close, but Humphries would seem to be the better watch and more marketable, so for me he'd be in the eight. The gulf in class between Luke and either of the opponents he could play is huge - he's projecting at closer to 85% than 80% to claim the win, and from there, it's not an awful section of the draw. Maybe Chizzy could cause him problems with the way he's playing right now, and there's some dangerous possible quarter final opponents (Smith being the most notable and the high seed in the quarter), but this is an excellent opportunity, and one that I think he takes to elevate his game to the next level.

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