BBC Sports Personality of the Year: Protests about Rory McIlroy are futile …

The bleating from the golfing fraternity has been deafening.

Rory McIlroy’s non-crowning as BBC Sports Personality of the Year has met with a level of objection as fierce in some quarters as that which emanates from a club captain who’s just had a ball drop from the heavens two yards away from him and not heard the shout of “Fore!”

Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley was left ‘very disappointed’. Ian Poulter, blue and gold rabble-rouser-in-chief, branded it ‘absolutely ridiculous’ and ‘a complete joke’. Sir Nick Faldo retweeted sarcasm from Ant and Dec about McIlroy needing ‘faster clubs’.

Countless less celebrated observers also waded in.

The double-Major winning Northern Irishman was 25-1 on with some bookmakers on Sunday night to receive the prestigious award. It was, in golfing parlance, supposed to be a gimme.

But McIlroy was forced to call Lewis Hamilton through…so cue all the usual arguments about whether the winner was worthy, and whether putting the decision out to a public vote can be trusted as a means of ensuring the cream rises to the top.

For what it’s worth, my own view, regardless of what Joe Public thought, is that McIlroy should have won it.

It’s difficult to make someone who doesn’t care for the game of golf understand the scale of the achievement of winning the Open and the USPGA in the same year, not to mention being part of yet another European Ryder Cup victory.

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Yet I don’t buy the theory that all Hamilton had to do was sit his backside in the best car to win a second World Drivers’ Championship either.

Winning Formula One comes with extraordinary physical demands, off the scale concentration levels and mental fortitude in the knowledge that one lapse of judgement could cost you not just a place on the podium but your life.

Those who expected Hamilton to play second fiddle clearly underestimated the pulling power of Formula One which has provided the winner six times – Stirling Moss (1961), Jackie Stewart (1973) and Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill twice (1986 and1992, and 1994 and 1996 respectively) – in the 61-year history of what is known in the social media world as SPOTY.

By contrast only Welshman Dai Rees (1957) and Sir Nick Faldo (1989) have won courtesy of their exploits on the golf course.

Bottom line? Never underestimate the fanaticism of those who follow motorsport. You certainly see it in Cardiff once a year when the speedway rolls into the Welsh capital.

It is not difficult to imagine legions of Hamilton followers taking the trouble to pick up telephones and register their preference.

Golf, on the other hand, got caught dawdling. On Sunday night, the European Tour was tweeting advice to would-be McIlroy endorsers to text votes for their man when it was not possible to do so under the terms and conditions of the BBC polling process.

Honest mistake it may have been, but for all the admiration for the best golfer in the world a similar mobilisation of support for him from Royal Porthcawl to St Andrews was clearly not forthcoming. Hamilton took 33.8% of the vote compared to McIlroy’s 19.9.

McIlroy’s was likely a classic case of people nodding sagely about his credentials and believing he was home and hosed without bothering to actually do what was required to ensure it.

Other issues need to be considered.

Rory McIlroy gives the first fist pump of the Ryder Cup


The most pressing is the sense that golf is no longer embedding itself in the public consciousness in the way it did at the height of its resurgence in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

That was a time when the exploits of Faldo, Woosnam, Lyle, Langer and Ballesteros made golf club membership a seller’s market and you were nobody if a Pringle sweater wasn’t hanging in your wardrobe.

McIlroy’s Open triumph was at the apex of his fantastic year, yet it was just about the only time we were able to see him perform on terrestrial televsion.

The rest of the golfing calendar is tucked away behind a satellite subscription – Ryder Cup included – and so there’s the suspicion that golf is suffering in the same way as Test cricket has done.

It flies over the heads of those with a dish who flick on Sky Sports as routinely as they do EastEnders.

Then there is the passage of time.

McIlroy’s exploits at Hoylake were also in July, so it wasn’t fresh in the minds of punters in the same way as Hamilton’s triumph which was sealed at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix only a fortnight ago.

The other potential factor being put forward is more complex and, unfortunately political.

Mercedes Lewis Hamilton celebrates becoming World Champion after victory in the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix


Did McIlroy’s support from his own country, Northern Ireland suffer because of his decision to represent Ireland rather than Great Britain at the 2016 Rio Olympics?

McIlroy has argued that as he played all his amateur golf under the auspices of the Golfing Union of Ireland and was funded by the GUI in his formative golfing years, he feels he belongs under the Irish banner.

But being from Holywood, County Down, there are those who find his decision difficult to accept.

We will probably never know what part all that played, but what we do know is that he will probably have to do something unimaginable to ever get his hands on the BBC trophy now.

Not that McIlroy will lose sleep.

He will be more concerned with being in possession of the trophy he walked on stage with in Glasgow on Sunday…the Open Championship Claret Jug.

You can bet any disdain he has for the outcome isn’t half as pronounced as some of those who believe he was robbed.

The engraver has done his work.

BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2014 is Lewis Hamilton. He is entirely worthy.

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