Friday 28 October 2016

Mark Allen taking inspiration from Danny Willett's Augusta heroics

Published 16/04/2016 | 12:26

Mark Allen hopes to follow Danny Willett into the winners' circle
Mark Allen hopes to follow Danny Willett into the winners' circle

Mark Allen has vowed to put himself into Crucible contention by taking inspiration from golf's Masters champion Danny Willett.

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Keen golfer Allen played a frame against Willett in the practice rooms during last year's Betfred World Championship.

Sheffield's newest sporting superstar returned from Augusta with the famous green jacket, and the local hero has been invited to take a bow at the home of snooker during the tournament that got under way on Saturday.

Northern Ireland cueman Allen was thrilled to see his one-time green baize opponent carve up the Georgia fairways last Sunday.

And the 30-year-old considers Willett and reigning world champion Stuart Bingham the models he must follow to achieve his own ambitions.

Allen is snooker's world number seven, while Willett was 12th in golf's rankings before his major breakthrough.

"It was great to see Danny win," Allen said. "He came here last year and he seems like a really, really nice guy. We chatted a lot and shared some funny stories from snooker and golf, and it's an amazing achievement for him to win the Masters, especially the way he did it.

"It'll be remembered a little bit for Jordan Spieth falling apart on the final nine but you have to remember Danny Willett didn't make a bogey on the final day, he made five birdies around Augusta on a Sunday. It was awesome and it could be the first of many for Danny because he seems like a confident lad.

"It definitely inspires me.

"But even closer to home I look how Stuart Bingham won last year. Stuart would admit himself he wouldn't be the first person on people's lips when picking a world champion but he thoroughly deserved it.

"He had the hardest draw of everyone, having to beat Ronnie O'Sullivan in the quarters, Judd Trump in the semis and then Shaun Murphy.

"You don't fluke a world title. That'll give him so much confidence and it's the same for other people that aren't right up there in the top two or three who are always on people's lips for winning events.

"It'll give them confidence that they can do it and if I can be the next one in that category then so be it."

Antrim's leading cueman launches his 10th World Championship campaign against Birmingham's Mitchell Mann on Tuesday.

Allen's best Crucible performance remains the run to the semi-finals he enjoyed in 2009, when a spirited fightback after a slow start could not prevent last-four rival John Higgins getting over the line.

Allen's impressive title victory in the Players Championship Grand Finals last month has raised hopes he could be in the frame for the ultimate snooker success come May 2.

He said: " Hopefully I'll find my best here, I feel like I've got a good chance."

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