Rory McIlroy lost out to Lewis Hamilton at the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year awards


Most golf fans’ timelines were filled with exasperated and incredulous comments following the conclusion of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year.

Despite being 1/4 with some bookmakers prior to the ceremony, Rory McIlroy lost out by some distance to Lewis Hamilton.

Even the Formula 1 World Champion seemed perplexed by the decision during his acceptance speech, despite registering 86,175 more votes than the four-time Major Champion.

From an objective standpoint, McIlroy should have been the winner. There can be no question of that.

While Hamilton enjoyed a standout year, winning 11 races, he benefited from the best technological expertise and engineering, a superior car to his rivals and a huge team network.

McIlroy, meanwhile, won two Major Championships, both the PGA and European Tour Money Lists, the BMW PGA Championship, The WGC-Bridgestone invitational and played a starring role at the Ryder Cup.

Hamilton defeated 21 other racers over the course of the season; McIlroy won more money than 297 players on the European Tour and 257 on the PGA Tour, and did so by some margin. In his two major wins, he defeated fields of 156 players.

Around the country, some sports writers watched in dismay as their pre-written pieces about McIlroy’s triumph became defunct.

Even the BBC published an article shortly afterwards with the title ‘Rory McIroy wins Sports Personality of the Year’ before swiftly replacing it with the correct story.

So, why didn’t McIlroy win?

In the popularity contest between the two sports, golf lost – perhaps a product of a lack of exposure on terrestrial channels, among other factors.

It must be said here that the BBC has showed scant resistance in allowing a host of key tournaments to move to Sky – an intelligible signal of its prioritisation of golf.

Sky, by contrast, has invested heavily in golf, worked tirelessly to produce the best possible offering and been lauded for doing so.

Elsewhere, F1 fans seemingly voted in their droves, while many of McIlroy’s advocates conceded in the aftermath they hadn’t bothered to register.

Fundamentally, though, it seems as if non-golf fans didn’t recognise the magnitude of McIlroy’s achievements.

Instead of showing McIlroy chipping into a washing machine – a clip that seems to fit the BBC’s emphasis on entertainment over substance – surely it would have been better to attempt to convey to the general public and those with a limited understanding of professional golf how impressive his season was?

Indeed, only two golfers have won BBC Sports Personality of the Year in the past: Dai Rees in 1954 and Nick Faldo in 1989.

Even Tony Jacklin wasn’t recognised for becoming the first Brit to win the US Open in an era dominated by American golfers.

As long as Sports Personality of the Year remains a public vote and the BBC continues to allow glitz and glam to supersede actual sporting achievement, it looks likely to stay the same.

And where was Charley Hull, who, earlier that day, became the youngest ever golfer to win the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit?

What was encouraging, however, was the presence of golf across a number of different categories.

Paul McGinely rightly won the coach of the year accolade for his faultless captaincy of the European Ryder Cup team, which lost out to the England women’s world cup-winning rugby team in Team of the Year – another decision many were surprised by.

Elsewhere, Scottish amateur golfer Bradley Neil was shortlisted in the Young Sports Personality of the Year category for his victory in this year’s Amateur Championship.

Unfortunately, McIlroy’s second-place finish will overshadow what was otherwise a very positive night for the sport.

Sadly, golf is struggling to prick public consciousness – something not helped by a lack of prioritisation by the BBC, a lack of understanding by the general populace and, ultimately, limited popularity. Could it be the latter point is a direct result of the first two?

If an affable 25-year-old who’s reached the summit of the world game and enjoyed unprecedented success in one year can’t win the title, what hope do golfers have going forward?

Still, it’s been some time since golfers were represented in four categories, so there’s something to be cheerful about.

That won’t provide much consolation to McIlroy, though.

  • Adam P Smith

    SPOTY is no
    longer relevant. Let’s face it who really cares about it. Golfers have never
    been adequately represented amongst the winners; two in over 50 years when four
    equestrians, five boxers and six F1 drivers have won tells us that the BBC has
    never really cared (don’t be fooled by its participation in The Open) for
    golf. But to bring things into the 21st century we need to remember it is a
    public vote and in an age of the ‘celebrity’ Rory was never going to win when
    up against the glamorous, diamond-earring wearing, celebrity-dating Lewis
    Hamilton; sadly the dumbing-down of this country means that the
    attention-deficit, instant-gratification seeking in our midst will always pick
    the easy option rather than carrying out any research or analysis into the most
    deserving winner. But thankfully our sport remains one where results are
    achieved through personal skill and not any other outside ‘force.’ For the
    future I have no reason to believe any other golfer will ever triumph in SPOTY
    but we should all ask ourselves ‘does that really matter?’ It never has and it
    never should.

  • ‘Paul McGinely rightly won the coach of the year accolade for his faultless captaincy of the European Ryder Cup team, which lost out to the England women’s world cup-winning rugby team in Team of the Year – another decision many were surprised by.’

    Not sure it’s that surprising. Winning a world cup is pretty much the pinnacle of women’s rugby. They had to face off against multiple countries to do it, not just one. And so to say that Ryder Cup success is more worthy than World Cup success is to suggest that golf is an inherently superior or more challenging sport than rugby. Which is a tad patronising.

    The amount of displeasure being expressed by those in the golfing fraternity about the SPOTY result is making it appear as if those who play and follow the sport have a superiority complex.

    When Andy Murray won the SPOTY award last year, with accomplishments comparable to Mcllroy’s this year, there was an argument for saying Mo Farah, the first Brit to hold world and olympic titles at both 5,000m & 10,000m, had a right to feel hard done by. What he’d accomplished was unprecedented for a British athlete and had been done by just two other men in history. He was, at least, as equally deserving as Murray of receiving the honour. But he didn’t win. And that was ok. He, and the public, could recognise and celebrate the accomplishments of his fellow sportsman and appreciate that what they’d both achieved that year was remarkable and that either of them would have been deserved winners.

    Fast forward to this year and we see that Mcllroy has had an exceptional year. A historic year. He has a right to feel disappointed. But to suggest that his not winning is somehow unjust, when the person who did win did so by surpassing the all time mark for GP race wins by a British driver (breaking the 20 year record formerly held by Nigel Mansell), became the first British multiple world champion since 1972, became one of only 3 men in the history of his sport to win 11 or more races in a season, and achieved all this in a year where he suffered multiple engine failures, brake failures, the underhanded methods of his main title rival, and a fair amount of bad luck that together brought about a huge and seemingly insurmountable points deficit – well, it’s just undignified. Mcllroy and his supporters can feel disappointed, but to feel robbed only proves a failure to recognise just how special Hamilton’s achievements were this year – which is the very same ignorance the golfing fraternity is accusing the British public of concerning Mcllroy.

    For me Mcllroy deserved to win, but Hamilton is a worthy winner also, just like with Murray and Farah last year. When both sportsmen have broken significant records in their respective sports there’s no need to disparage the accomplishments of one in order to acknowledge the achievements of the other. Be disappointed with the result, but don’t call it unjust or, as some have said, ‘a joke’.

  • Davie Scott

    I am golf’s and Rory’s biggest fan.I want him to win every tournament. What this boy from Belfast has achieved is simply unbelievable. However, his decision to represent the Republic of Ireland at the Olympics rather than GB&NI, lost him my BBC SPOTY vote. It’s one small way to show my disgust. Looks like many more of his fellow countrymen think the same.