ONCE the sport’s recognised home, the BBC is losing – perhaps has even lost – its credibility in golf, the final straw for many being this year’s Sports Personality of the Year Awards.
While there’s no denying that Andy Murray was a deserved winner of the main prize, Justin Rose finishing ninth out of the ten nominees, coupled with golf being overlooked in the other categories, has led to eyebrows being raised in the Royal & Ancient game.
In the year he became US Open champion – the first Englishman to achieve the feat since Tony Jacklin in 1970 – Rose polled fewer than 10,000 votes, which, to put into context, was around 390,000 less than Murray secured and a sixth of runner-up Leigh Halfpenny’s total.
“Perhaps the public overlooked the bit where he [Rose] won the US Open,” tweeted Andrew Cotter, one of the Beeb’s golf commentators, in expressing his surprise at seeing the world No 4 snubbed in such astonishing fashion.
It was a shocking insult to Rose, who had the good grace to use the same social media outlet to offer his congratulations to Murray but, at the same time, appeared to signal shock himself that he only managed to beat a cricketer, Ian Bell, in a poll that attracted a reported 717,454 votes.
“Thanks for voting, anyone who did . . . ” wrote Rose on Twitter en route to his home in Orlando from Thailand, where he had been criticised by some for playing in an end-of-season event instead of attending Sunday night’s BBC bash in Leeds, but he will certainly be pleased now that he wasn’t talked into changing those plans.
Among those in attendance were Catriona Matthew and Charley Hull, two members of the European women’s side that won the Solheim Cup on American soil for the first time yet still lost out to the British Lions for Team of the Year. It was a double dose of disappointment on the night for Hull, who made a spectacular debut in that match in Denver at just 17 before going on to be crowned as the Ladies European Tour Rookie of the Year, as the Young Sports Personality prize went instead to shooter Amber Hill.
Add in the fact that Charlie Green, one of the legendary figures in British amateur golf, failed to get a mention in the list of those who had passed away over the past 12 months and it’s easy to see why golf followers went into Twitter overdrive on Sunday night.
But, while Cotter – an excellent commentator, and, along with the likes of Hazel Irvine and Ken Brown, an asset when it comes to golf coverage – appeared to be pointing the finger of blame at the public for Rose failing so miserably in this year’s poll, surely the BBC itself is even more culpable.
After all, how often did viewers of terrestrial TV see Rose – in a different league, incidentally, to golf’s last SPOTY winner, Nick Faldo, in the personality stakes – on their screens in 2013?
By my reckoning, the BBC only delivered six days of live coverage from a men’s golf tournament this year – all four rounds of the Open Championship at Muirfield and the final two from the Masters at Augusta.
The Scottish Open and PGA Championship, both shown live by the channel for a long time, have now been reduced to highlights, leaving the likes of Cotter, Irvine, Brown and, of course, Peter Alliss with slim pickings, especially in comparison to the feast of golf served up by Sky Sports.
Dear old Henry Longhurst, the man who preceded Alliss as the “Voice of Golf” – Alex Hay, too – would be turning in his grave if he knew how little air time the great game now commands on the BBC schedule, having been downgraded in the same way, sadly, as horseracing by the powers-that-be.
There’s a smugness about the BBC these days, a feeling that has probably been permeated by the likes of Gary Lineker and his Match of the Day cohorts. They may still feel that programme on a Saturday night is football’s spiritual home.
For golf, though, the channel has failed its licence payers and that, not the public letting him down, is what has left Rose, in the year – like Murray – when he recorded the greatest win of his career, a tad red-faced while the Scot enjoys his deserved plaudits.