Date of Birth: 26 March 1971
Nicknames: The Highlander, The Dentist
Highest Ranking: 32
Rory McLeod is an English professional snooker player. After ten years on the Challenge Tour he reached the Main Tour professional ranks for the 2001/2002 season, paving the way for a lengthy career.
McLeod has reached the last 16 of five ranking tournaments. The first of these was the 2005 Grand Prix although this victory against a noticeably ill Paul Hunter was bittersweet. His best results of 2004/2005 were 2 last-48 runs, the Welsh Open run including a victory over Shaun Murphy. He narrowly missed out on a place in the last 16 of the 2007 Grand Prix, losing on frame difference in his group to Barry Hawkins.
He qualified for the 2008 UK Championship by beating Jimmy White and Dave Harold where he played Ronnie O’Sullivan. He slipped 6–0 down before launching an impressive comeback by winning five consecutive frames (including three successive centuries), but ultimately lost 9–6. Later in the season he defeated Ian McCulloch to qualify for the World Championship for the first time in 2009, becoming the first black player to have done so. He faced Mark King in the first round but despite putting in a resilient performance lost 10–6. However, his performances throughout the season saw him rise to his highest ranking yet of 39.
In 2009 he won the Masters Qualifying Event, beating Andrew Higginson 6–1 in the final, to earn a place at the final stages of the 2010 Masters where he lost 6–2 to Mark Williams. He followed this up by qualifying for the UK Championship, being knocked out in the first round by Neil Robertson.
McLeod qualified for the World Snooker Championship for the second time in 2011, and was drawn against seeded player Ricky Walden in the first round. In a minor upset, McLeod won the match 10–6 to set up a second-round match with world No. 1 John Higgins. After the match, Walden criticised McLeod’s slow style of play, though McLeod was playing only marginally slower than Walden. McLeod responded to the criticism by arguing that Walden was more responsible for the pace of the match. McLeod was ultimately defeated by the eventual champion John Higgins 13–7 in the second round.
On 1 July 2011, respected Dutch referee Jan Verhaas stated on his Twitter page that McLeod refused to shake the hand of female snooker referee Ivy Zhu after his victory over Robert Milkins in a qualifier for the Australian Goldfields Open. Verhaas’ comment read: “Rory McLeod refused to shake female ref Ivy Zhu’s hand this morning because of his muslim beliefs. You may think what you like about it…”. On 22 November 2014, after losing 4–0 to Judd Trump at the Ruhr Open, McLeod again refused to shake the hand of the female referee.
McLeod qualified for the 2011 Australian Goldfields Open, and beat Peter Ebdon in the first round 5 frames to 3, before going out to Shaun Murphy in the second round. McLeod qualified for the 2011 UK Championship by beating Barry Hawkins 6–2. He was drawn against three-time UK winner John Higgins and led 4–2 before the scoreline became 5–5. In the deciding frame Higgins “fluked” two balls, one when escaping a snooker and McLeod would ultimately lose the match 6–5. McLeod also reached the China Open where he played Higgins in the first round again and lost 1–5. He finished the season ranked world number 38.
McLeod qualified for the Australian Goldfields Open and the China Open during the 2012/2013 season. In Australia he lost 4–5 in the first round to Stephen Lee and in China he had his best run of the season, beating Hu Hao 5–1 in the wildcard round, Matthew Stevens 5–2 in the first round, before losing 3–5 to Shaun Murphy in the last 16. McLeod played in all 10 of the minor-ranking Players Tour Championship events, with his best finish coming at the fifth European Tour Event, where he was whitewashed 0–4 by John Higgins in the quarter-finals. He finished 36th on the PTC Order of Merit, outside of the top 26 who qualified for the Finals. McLeod ended the season by losing 9–10 to Sam Baird in the third round of World Championship Qualifying, to be placed at number 45 in the world rankings.
McLeod lost 5–3 to Mark King in the first round of the 2013 Wuxi Classic and 5–2 to Robert Milkins in the second round of the Australian Goldfields Open to start the 2013/2014 season. He qualified for three other Chinese ranking events during the year, losing in the first round of the International Championship and China Open. At the World Open, McLeod came through a wildcard round match against Zhao Xintong and then narrowly beat Tom Ford 5–4, before world number one Neil Robertson knocked him out 5–1.
McLeod was beaten 5–4 by Michael Holt after having been 4–2 ahead in the first round of the 2014 Wuxi Classic. He defeated Lee Walker, Andrew Pagett and Ken Doherty on his way to qualifying for the Australian Goldfields Open and lost 5–2 to Judd Trump in the opening round. McLeod failed to qualify for the next two ranking events, before knocking out Ian Burns 6–2 and Zhang Anda 6–5 at the UK Championship. His second last 32 match of the season went into the early hours and it was Matthew Selt who ended McLeod’s tournament with a 6–4 win. McLeod met Ronnie O’Sullivan in the second round of the Welsh Open after seeing off Andrew Pagett 4–2. He led 2–0, before O’Sullivan won four unanswered frames. The final ranking event McLeod could qualify for this year was the Indian Open where he lost 4–1 to Ricky Walden in the first round. McLeod kept a hold of his tour place at the end of the season as he was the world number 62, just inside the top 64 who remain.
McLeod began 2015/2016 by playing in the Australian Goldfields Open, where he beat Nigel Bond 5–2 before losing 5–4 to Jack Lisowski in the last 64. He progressed to the last 16 at the next event, the Riga Open, overcoming German amateur Roman Dietzel 4–1, Irishman Fergal O’Brien 4–0 and Hammad Miah 4–2, but lost at this stage 4–2 to eventual finalist Tom Ford. He reached the last 48 at the Shanghai Masters, losing to Alan McManus, and was eliminated in the first round of the International Championship, 6–1 by Daniel Wells.
However, at the Ruhr Open, McLeod defeated Craig Steadman, Jamie Jones, Mark King, Ben Woollaston, Mark Davis and the resurgent Mike Dunn to reach the final of an event carrying ranking points for the first time in his career, 24 years after making his professional debut. There, he faced China’s Tian Pengfei, whom he defeated 4–2 to win his second professional title. The €25,000 winner’s prize was the highest amount he had earned from a single tournament in his career.
McLeod is of Jamaican parentage, and is the only black professional snooker player. He was born in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, where he attended Victoria Junior School, Westfield Boys School and Sir Christopher Hatton School. He first played snooker seriously at the Embassy Club, Wellingborough, in his early teens, but was also a talented schoolboy footballer. A former pub landlord, he became a Muslim around 2000. He now spends much of his time in Qatar, where he coaches their national snooker team.
McLeod is also a member of the 9/11 Truth Movement.
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