James Savage from National Club Golfer lists the reasons why Lewis Hamilton pipped the Northern Irishman despite his phenomenal 2014.
There was certainly a degree of outrage among the golfing community when Rory McIlroy was announced as runner-up to Lewis Hamilton as BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
I too was quite shocked. I’d even started writing a story with the headline “Rory McIlroy wins Sports Personality of the Year” before the announcement was made.
The reason for this was because I thought there was absolutely no doubt which was the greater sporting achievement.
But what I, and lots of other people, lost sight of last night was that this is not an award for the greatest sporting achievement. It’s a popularity contest.
Here are the reasons why Rory McIlroy didn’t win.
- This is an award based on a public vote and all those people (like me) who were confident of Rory taking the top prize probably didn’t pick up the phone or go online to vote. Hamiliton took over a third of all votes.
- Golf nuts (like me) can’t quite understand that not a lot of people love golf to the same levels that we do. Why not? What is wrong with them. But it’s a fact, F1 is more popular than golf among the British sporting public. But why?
- There simply isn’t enough golf on terrestrial TV. How many people who are inclined to vote in Sports Personality of the Year stayed up until the early hours to watch McIlroy clinch the PGA at Valhalla? Formula One is on the BBC and Sky and it’s usually on a Sunday afternoon with huge audiences.
- As stated previously, this is a popularity contest. Lewis Hamilton is definitely of the David Beckham mould. Softly-spoken, squeaky clean – a role model to youngsters. He’s got that A-list appeal and is far more likely to be known by the non-sport fans. These are the people who are more likely to pick up the phone and vote.
- Lewis Hamilton very cleverly managed to mention his girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger in his on-stage speech before the voting lines were even opened. “Just flew in from LA and saw Nicole’s show which was amazing”. This is X-Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger we are talking about so may have subconsciously made more people pick up the phone and vote.
- Maybe the public remember that Rory called off his wedding to Caroline Wozniacki at the 11th hour stating he “wasn’t ready for all that marriage entails”. As with Beckham, a sportsman’s “brand” is affected massively by his other half. A celebrity couple, regularly pictured in the glossy magazines, ranks higher than a single man who enjoys letting off steam in private with his mate in Ibiza.
- As when Darren Clarke was up for the award in 2011, timing can work against the golfer in this particulate contest. The Open, which just happens to be the golfing event with decent terrestrial TV coverage, is in July. Hamilton sealed his F1 drivers championship victory just a few weeks ago so it’s fresher in the mind.
- I also felt Rory’s Open victory didn’t get the credit it deserved via the BBC’s montage on the night. Yes it was great to see an eight-year-old Rory chipping balls into a washing machine but there just wasn’t enough stats and numbers on just what a phenomenal year it has been for the Northern Irishman. It should have been enough to seal the deal but he did far more than win a couple of majors. I’m not sure the audience last night would have been aware that he also won the European Tour’s flagship event, his first WGC, was player of the year on both tours and crushed Rickie Fowler in the Ryder Cup singles.
- Paul McGinley thoroughly deserved his coach of the year award for leading Europe to victory at Gleneagles but if that had gone to someone else, would more people have been inclined to vote for McIlroy? (Maybe I’m clutching at straws a bit now).
- Lewis Hamilton’s achievement is worth more than I am giving it credit for. Probably but golf has a level playing field on the basis that all golfers can use whatever equipment they want. The driver with the best car usually wins the F1 Drivers Championship. If McIlroy was clearly using better equipment than everyone else I think that would take something away from his achievements.