Hearn: Return of Rocket not vital
World Snooker chairman Barry Hearn believes the success of the Betfair Masters shows the game can survive without Ronnie O'Sullivan.
Mark Selby became the sixth man in history to win the Masters for a third time with a 10-6 final victory over defending champion Neil Robertson.
O'Sullivan was a spectator at Alexandra Palace on semi-final day, sparking rumours he will take his place at the World Championship in Sheffield in April, where world number one Selby, after becoming the first player to win back-to-back majors in 10 years, will be among the favourites.
"If I know Ronnie I think the reason he came Saturday night is because he's sitting at home watching it on telly saying 'I used to be good at that game'," said Hearn. "He just turned up; he should've brought his cue.
"He still has a choice of entering the World Championships. The closing date is the end of February; he's got to make a decision before then.
"If he decides to he's welcome with open arms, because he adds so much. And if he doesn't, I just want to remind him that he wasn't in the Masters, we sold more tickets and we got bigger TV ratings.
"The sport does not rely on one person, even if that person can add another dimension to it, which we would welcome.
"The choice is entirely his. I'm certainly not going to put any pressure on."
Hearn, who in December 2009 was appointed chairman of the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association (WPBSA), has made a number of changes to rejuvenate the game since taking up his current role with the governing body's commercial arm in June 2010. The innovation will continue next season, when top 16 players will play from round one in the majority of tournaments. The World Championship, Australian Open and Shanghai Masters are the exceptions.
"What I can compare it to is Usain Bolt, who is the number one sprinter in the world but does not start halfway down the track," Hearn said.
"It's a challenge to the top 16 to say: if you really are top 16, you shouldn't have any problems with starting the same as anybody else.
"If you're worried about it, I can understand why you want protectionism, but we're not going to allow protectionism.
"Eight of the 11 events next year will be a 128 draw. The three events that are not will be the only events where the prize money doesn't change, until they come into the family."
The Masters is open only to the 16 best players in the world and has benefited from the move to Alexandra Palace from Wembley, with Hearn hoping it continues to prosper.
Hearn added: "We will announce new prize money next week for the Masters, because we're going to reward the top 16, providing they're the real top 16. And they may well be, I just want to see it."