Rory McIlroy has been named The 2015 European Tour Golfer of the Year, receiving the prestigious award for the third time in four years.
The Northern Irishman won three times during the 2015 season, including an enthralling victory in the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai last month which ensured he successfully defended his Race to Dubai crown – an honour he also claimed for a third time in four years.
McIlroy finished 1,056,943 points clear of his nearest rival, Englishman Danny Willett, in The Race to Dubai, becoming only the seventh player in European Tour history to be crowned European Number One in consecutive campaigns.
He has now added The European Tour Golfer of the Year award to his trophy cabinet after a panel consisting of members of the golfing media unanimously voted for him as the 2015 winner.
I feel very proud to have won this prestigious award for the third time.
“It is a huge honour for me to be named European Tour Golfer of the Year again,” said McIlroy. “I feel very proud to have won this prestigious award for the third time - it is always special, no matter how often, to be recognised this way.
“After a good first half to the season, the injury was obviously a setback for me, so to finish the year strongly with my second victory in Dubai – plus picking up The Race to Dubai title again - was very satisfying. This was an objective I successfully fulfilled this season. To now win the Golfer of the Year award, too, is a great way to sign off the year. I am already looking forward to starting the new season and trying to achieve even more in 2016.”
McIlroy’s first victory of 2015 also came in Dubai, at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic – the tournament where he celebrated his maiden European Tour title in 2009 – before he crossed the Atlantic to pick up his second, emerging as the last man standing in the WGC-Cadillac Match Play, defeating American Gary Woodland 4 and 2 in the final at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
The four-time Major champion then assumed the role of tournament host for the first time in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open Hosted by the Rory Foundation at Royal County Down Golf Club, before his season’s momentum was halted when he suffered an ankle injury playing football on the eve of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, which also ruled him out of his Open Championship defence at St Andrews.
However an intense rehabilitation period saw him return to action just five weeks later, but by the time he reached the season-ending DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, Willett had cut his advantage at the top of The Race to Dubai to a mere 1,613 points.
With the pressure on, McIlroy saved his best for last, eventually prevailing in the tournament following a titanic final day battle with another Englishman, Andy Sullivan. His one shot victory on the Earth Course at Jumeirah Golf Estates meant he lifted the tournament trophy and Race to Dubai trophy together for the second time having also achieved the double in 2012.
Keith Pelley, Chief Executive Officer of The European Tour, said: “Rory is not only a Major Champion, a World Golf Champion and an amazing talent, he is also a terrific ambassador for The European Tour, so to have him as our Golfer of the Year for 2015 is special.
To win for a third time at the age of 26 is a superb achievement.
“To win this prestigious award for a third time at the age of 26 is a superb achievement, and undoubtedly Rory showed again this season why he is one of golf’s, and indeed sport’s, most watchable performers, particularly during his captivating victory in Dubai last month. Our congratulations go to Rory for another outstanding season on The European Tour.”
Derek Lawrenson, Chairman of the Association of Golf Writers and Golf Correspondent of The Daily Mail, said: “Rory McIlroy’s victory in the DP World Tour Championship in November didn’t just transform his season, it also changed everything regarding the rightful winner of the European Tour’s prestigious Golfer of the Year award.
His victory in Dubai changed everything.
“Without that triumph, it would have been a closely-fought contest involving a number of other candidates who enjoyed wonderful seasons in their own right. In particular, the panel looked closely at the outstanding claims put forward a number of players, including India’s Anirban Lahiri, Ireland’s Shane Lowry, South African Branden Grace, Englishman Justin Rose, and the marvellous breakthrough seasons enjoyed by Rose’s fellow countrymen Danny Willett, Matt Fitzpatrick and Andy Sullivan, plus the accomplishments of the Rookie of the Year, Korean Byeong Hun An.
“In the end, McIlroy’s third win of the season, achieved against the cream of the European Tour’s members to claim the Race to Dubai for a third time, undoubtedly tipped the verdict in his favour. The fact the vote was unanimous simply emphasised he remains the man to beat.”
James Haddock, Golf Reporter for Sky Sports News said: “Despite missing an important part of the season through injury, Rory McIlroy showed he could still turn it on when it mattered. Three wins, including a WGC title, is an impressive season for anyone.
“He won The Race to Dubai earning more points than anyone else, from fewer events than any of his nearest competitors. At the top of his game, he is Europe's best golfer. Going into the final event in Dubai, the DP World Tour Championship, he was able to ensure he was at his very best to secure the victory which gave him the Race to Dubai title also. In doing this he proved his class and therefore he is my Golfer of the Year.”
McIlroy was chosen ahead of a shortlist of candidates which included the other ten winners of the Hilton Golfer of the Month award from 2015, as well as Sullivan, who like McIlroy won three times in 2015, Grace and Rose.
The full list of Hilton European Tour Golfer of the Month award winners in 2015 is: Danny Willett (December (2014) and July), Gary Stal (January), Anirban Lahiri (February), Richie Ramsay (March), Wu Ashun (April), Byeong Hun An (May), Alex Noren (June), Shane Lowry (August), Lee Slattery (September), Matthew Fitzpatrick (October) and Rory McIlroy (November).