As sporting upsets go, they don’t come much bigger than Jordan Brown’s remarkable Welsh Open final triumph over Ronnie O’Sullivan at Celtic Manor.
More than 10 years after Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell sunk the putt which secured the Ryder Cup for Europe at the Newport venue, his compatriot stunned the sporting world with a 9-8 win over the six-time world champion.
Lying 81st in the world prior to the tournament, 750-1 outsider Brown defied the odds to become the lowest ranked winner of a ranking event since 1983.
The 33-year-old’s progress to the final saw him show grit and determination to win four final-frame deciders, including a black ball victory over Mark Selby in the quarter-finals, before easing past Stephen Maguire 6-1 at the last-four stage.
Most observers thought a meeting with O’Sullivan in the final a bridge too far for the Antrim cueman, but Brown responded by showing admirable calmness under pressure and maintaining the standard of play he had shown all week to become only the fourth Northern Irishman to collect a tour title.
He joins the legendary Alex Higgins, 1985 world champion Dennis Taylor and his regular practice partner Mark Allen in that illustrious list and climbed 36 places in the rankings to 45 in the process.
‘Something I will cherish forever’
Understandably, the extent of his achievement was still sinking in when BBC Sport caught up with the three-time Northern Irish amateur champion on Monday.
“I don’t think it will sink in for quite a while, it’s a dream come true and I can’t quite believe it. It’s a very proud moment for me, beating Ronnie in a final, and it’s something I will cherish for ever,” said Brown.
“Success like this only makes me want more in the future and it’s up to me now to prove it is no fluke. I always knew I had the talent but talent enough isn’t enough – you have to back it up with hard work and a never-say-die attitude.
“I have been overwhelmed with phone calls and texts – the phone hasn’t stopped – it’s an amazing feeling.
“Just to get to the final was beyond my expectations but I stuck to my gameplan to play the balls rather than play Ronnie. He is such a good frontrunner, he can steamroller opponents, but I knew my form was good going into the match.
“I told myself if it goes to a decider be prepared to get a chance and be prepared to take it. Thankfully I produced the goods when it mattered.”
After almost falling off the professional tour last season following a string of poor results, Brown showed a glimpse of what was to come when he qualified for his maiden appearance at the World Championship at the Crucible Theatre in Sheffield last August.
A win over three-time quarter-finalist Ryan Day in his final qualifying match booked the ‘Antrim Ferrari’, as he is nicknamed, a place in the first round, where he lost 10-6 to Mark Selby in a relatively low quality encounter.
A run to the quarter-finals of the German Masters last month indicated the kind of form Brown was in but he still entered the Welsh Open as a rank outsider for the £70,000 first prize.
‘I don’t think anyone could believe what was happening’
His fellow Antrim man and great friend, world number 10 Mark Allen, admits he was surprised by his clubmate’s progression through to the final.
“I don’t think anyone could quite believe what was happening all week but nobody is happier for him or more proud of what he has achieved than me,” said Allen.
“I’m amazed and ecstatic all rolled into one. I know more than anyone what Jordan is capable of, I see it every day in the club and have done for the past 20 years.
“But to actually do it on the big stage when he has never done it before or shown any glimpses of it was phenomenal.
“All week the biggest attribute he had was his calmness under pressure – he came through so many tight matches and he showed unbelievable resolve that no matter what happened to him he was going to find a way to win.”
A springboard for the future
Having only a relatively modest 23 career century breaks to his name, Brown has now emerged from the shadows of Allen and has the opportunity to build on his success when he competes in the Players Championship at Milton Keynes this week.
Scot John Higgins will be his opponent in the first round of that competition on Wednesday afternoon.
“Without doubt he will use this as a springboard and the next few weeks are going to be huge for him,” continued Allen.
“If he can get a run going in this Players Championship and qualify for and win a few matches at the World Championship then there’s no reason he can’t be in the top 32 at the end of this season.
“That’s absolutely unheard of from where he has come from but he has put the work in on the practice table in recent years and is now starting to reap the rewards.”