What does the Triple Crown in snooker mean?

Getty Images/Richard Pelham
Information on the fabled Triple Crown Series, players who have completed it and won the most events.

In snooker, the Triple Crown is a collective term linking the sport’s three longest-running and most prestigious professional events; the UK Championship, Masters, and World Championship, which are each held every season and promoted together as the ‘Triple Crown Series’.  

The phrase ‘Triple Crown’ has only regularly been used in recent years by the sport’s authorities and the media, perhaps in an attempt to clearly distinguish snooker’s premier events. Besides their own individual merits and histories, each of these tournaments is now also labelled as a Triple Crown event. 

One of the first examples that the term Triple Crown was used in the sport was reportedly during the 1999 Masters when reigning world and UK champion John Higgins referenced it in an interview. The Scot went on to win that year’s Masters, meaning he held all three Triple Crown titles at the same time. 

Although the three competitions are associated, the World Championship is unquestionably professional snooker’s blue riband event. 

All three Triple Crown events have been televised by host broadcaster the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) every year since the 1970s. 

Who has completed snooker’s Triple Crown and what does it represent? 

Should a player win all three of snooker’s biggest events – the UK Championship, Masters, and the World Championship - during their career, it means they have completed a ‘Career Triple Crown’. 

In the history of professional snooker, only 11 players have achieved this: 

  • Steve Davis (6-3-6) - completed in January 1982 

  • Terry Griffiths (1-1-1) - completed in December 1982 

  • Alex Higgins (1-2-2) - completed in December 1983 

  • Stephen Hendry (5-6-7) - completed in April 1990 

  • John Higgins (3-2-4) - completed in February 1999 

  • Mark Williams (2-2-3) - completed in May 2000 

  • Ronnie O'Sullivan (8-8-7) - completed in May 2001 

  • Neil Robertson (3-2-1) - completed in December 2013 

  • Mark Selby (2-3-4) - completed in May 2014 

  • Shaun Murphy (1-1-1) - completed in January 2015 

  • Judd Trump (1-2-1) - completed in May 2019 

(UK Championship titles – Masters titles – World Championship titles)

Credit: Getty Images/Alex PantlingCredit: Getty Images/Alex Pantling
Credit: Getty Images/Alex Pantling | Getty Images/Alex Pantling

At the time of writing during the 2023/24 snooker season, five active professionals are one win away from completing a Career Triple Crown; Jimmy White, Matthew Stevens, Ding Junhui and Mark Allen each need the World Championship, whilst Stuart Bingham requires the UK Championship. 

Seven ex-professionals completed two thirds of a Career Triple Crown: John Spencer, Ray Reardon, Doug Mountjoy, Cliff Thorburn, Dennis Taylor, John Parrott and Peter Ebdon. 

Who has completed a Triple Crown Grand Slam and what does it mean? 

Should a player win the UK Championship, Masters, and World Championship all within the same season, it can be a called a ‘Triple Crown Grand Slam’. 

Due to the difficulty of sustaining such form throughout an individual campaign, this has only been achieved by three people throughout the history of professional snooker. 

Stephen Hendry is the only player to have completed multiple Triple Crown Grand Slams. 

  • Steve Davis (1987/88) 

  • Stephen Hendry (1989/90 and 1995/96) 

  • Mark Williams (2002/03) 

Ronnie O'Sullivan will join this elite list if he wins the 2024 World Championship having won the UK Championship and Masters earlier in the 2023/24 season. 

Who has won the most Triple Crown events in snooker history? 

In terms of individual Triple Crown event tournament wins, Ronnie O’Sullivan leads the way with 23. 

O’Sullivan surpassed Stephen Hendry’s previous benchmark of 18 when he won the 2018 UK Championship. 

Top ten list of players with the most Triple Crown event wins: 

  • Ronnie O'Sullivan: 23
  • Stephen Hendry: 18
  • Joe Davis: 15
  • Steve Davis: 15
  • John Higgins: 9
  • Mark Selby: 9
  • Fred Davis: 8
  • John Pulman: 8
  • Ray Reardon: 7
  • Mark Williams: 7
Credit: Getty Images/Lewis StoreyCredit: Getty Images/Lewis Storey
Credit: Getty Images/Lewis Storey | Getty Images/Lewis Storey

Is the Triple Crown a fair way to compare players?

The landscape of the professional game throughout the modern era continues to evolve with new events added to the calendar, and events that aren’t held anymore. The Triple Crown concept is a fair measure for the past 40 years or so, as the UK Championship, Masters and World Championship have all remained constants on the circuit during that timeframe.

However, several of snooker’s early greats prior to this period were either unable to obtain a Career Triple Crown or were disadvantaged as they were no longer at the peak of their powers.

The first World Championship was won in 1927. The Masters in 1975, and the UK Championship in 1977. That meant the first season all three events were played together was in 1977/78, but even then, the UK Championship was only open to British and Irish passport holders until the 1984 edition, affecting Canada’s Cliff Thorburn, who never won that title. 

A six-time world champion in the 1970s – and a Masters champion in 1976 – Ray Reardon also misses out on Career Triple Crown status having not claimed the UK crown; the same applies to another 1970s icon, John Spencer. Had the UK Championship been founded earlier, then both these great cueists would very likely be on the list, too.

Snooker’s original star, 15-time world champion Joe Davis, never played in a UK Championship or Masters.

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