A golfer deserves BBC prize, says Westwood

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The Independent Online

Lee Westwood, the world No 1 golfer, may have been turned away from the door of an exclusive London nightclub earlier this week but he will at least head to tomorrow's BBC Sports Personality of the Year show pleased that his sport is finally getting some of the recognition it deserves.

This is the first time two golfers have made the shortlist of 10, although listening to Westwood, this sort of representation is overdue. The United Kingdom boasts six members of the top 11 (the US have only four) and after a season that saw Graeme McDowell become the first European to win the US Open in 40 years, the hopes of the SPOTY trophy are high.

"I think we have carried on this season as we have been playing for two or three years," said the 37-year-old who ended Tiger Woods' five-year reign on top of the world rankings in October. "The strength of British golf is incredible – but look at the press the rest of sports in Britain get. They get mountains and mountains of coverage and you tell me if they are performing as well as the golfers are. I don't think so. I don't think you'll find another sport in the country that's got as many world-class performers as Britain does at golf."

Whether it will be enough to ensure golf's second winner of the award – after Nick Faldo in 1989 – is dubious. AP McCoy has emerged as the odds-on favourite as punters have reportedly clamoured to back the 15-time champion jumps jockey in the wake of him finally breaking his Grand National hoodoo on board Don't Push It.

The racing fraternity have come together in an attempt to get their man over the line in the public vote, with the racing authorities, betting companies and racing channels all launching campaigns. Races have been renamed to further raise McCoy's profile and, weather willing, this will continue until a few hours before the BBC's lines open. Unashamedly, all six races on tomorrow's Kempton card feature McCoy in the title.

The drive is understandable as despite being the second biggest spectator sport in Britain, racing has still to boast a single SPOTY winner in the 56 years it has been held. Bob Champion and Aldaniti were awarded the Team of the Year for their Grand National victory in 1981 but otherwise leading names such as Lester Piggott and Frankie Dettori have missed out. "It would be great for racing if I were lucky enough to win," so McCoy, this most reluctant of superstars, told The Independent this week. "And racing has given me such a good life I would feel as though I'd done a little bit in return."

McDowell is considered the chief threat, particularly as the Ulsterman overcame Woods a fortnight ago when four shots down going into the final round of the Chevron World Challenge. Furthermore, the Ryder Cup is sure to be heavily featured in the show to be broadcast in front of 12,000 at the Birmingham LG Arena. Colin Montgomerie's winning Europe team are considered heavy favourites to win the Team of the Year, while Montgomerie, himself, is believed to be set to lift the Coach of the Year prize. McDowell secured the winning point at Celtic Manor and his chance in the main event is obvious.

Yet the programme could feature the youngest ever winner in Tom Daley. The 16-year-old looks a formality to win his third Young Sports Personality of the Year prize after double Commonwealth gold this year, but also made the senior sports list for a second consecutive year. He will be an emotive choice for grandmothers everywhere, although he revealed to The Independent that he cannot even count on some of his school-friends' votes.

"One of my friends in my maths class actually said that he's not going to vote for me and he's going to vote for someone else," said Daley. "I hope he was only joking."

The Nominees

Tony McCoy (Racing) Odds: 4-5

Graeme McDowell (Golf) 7-2

Graeme Swann (Cricket) 10-1

Phil Taylor (Darts) 10-1

Amy Williams (Skeleton Bob) 12-1

Lee Westwood (Golf) 16-1

Jessica Ennis (Athletics) 20-1

Tom Daley (Diving) 33-1

Mark Cavendish (Cycling) 66-1

David Haye (Boxing) 66-1

Other awards

Overseas Personality

Team of the Year

Lifetime Achievement

Coach of the Year

Helen Rollason Award

Young Sports Personality of the Year

Unsung Hero Award

TV: Tomorrow, BBC 1, 7-9pm