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.