Rory McIlroy & Charley Hull climb charts this Christmas

By Iain CarterBBC golf correspondent
Rory McIlroy and Charley Hull
Rory McIlroy and Charley Hull enjoyed successful 2014s

The Christmas charts are always regarded as the most significant and the same can be said of the golfing versions.

In a sport where it is all about how many and not how, the end-of-year world rankings reveal the stark truth of the golfing calendar. They statistically validate what we witnessed from the global game.

It was abundantly clear that Rory McIlroy had established himself as the world's best player. He began 2014 as the world number six; by August he returned to top spot.

The figures reveal that on average points (based over a two-year cycle), he leads his closest rival, Henrik Stenson, by nearly three full marks.

To put that margin between numbers one and two into context, that's the same gap that separates Stenson and Matt Kuchar, who is 11th in the rankings.

Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia pose with the 2014 Ryder Cup trophy
As well as his individual success during the year, McIlroy helped win the Ryder Cup with his European team-mates

McIlroy enjoys such a lead courtesy of a four-win season that yielded major victories at the Open and US PGA. He gained no fewer than 567 ranking points, while Masters champion and world number four Bubba Watson was next best with 398.

By contrast, Tiger Woods's injury-ravaged year led to a fall from world number one to 32 as he collected fewer than 10 ranking points.

Others to suffer worrying declines include two Englishmen - Luke Donald (from 17th 33rd) and Ian Poulter (12th to 27th).

However, compatriots Danny Willett and Tommy Fleetwood can reflect on a stellar year. Willett rose from 116th to 50th and that year-end top-50 status earns him a Masters debut in April.

Fleetwood needs his current trend to continue to gain the right to join Willett in Augusta, having finished the year 51st by leaping 67 places in the standings.

Irishman Shane Lowry climbed into the top 50 having started the year 76th and, in the season of his Ryder Cup debut, Scot Stephen Gallacher moved from 66 to 35 in the world.

Perhaps the most welcome surge up the rankings came from double heart transplant survivor Erik Compton. Runner-up to Martin Kaymer at the US Open, the 35-year-old American rose 267 places from 362nd spot.

Charley Hull's rapid rise
Aged nine: Won the UK National Ladies' Championships at Turnberry
Aged 10: Played with Morgan Pressel in British Open Pro-Am
Aged 14: Highest-ranked English female amateur golfer in the world
Aged 16: Won her singles match against Lindy Duncan as part of the Great Britain and Ireland Curtis Cup team in 2012
Aged 17: Made her professional debut, played in the Solheim Cup, won her first tournament and name Rookie of the Year on the Ladies European Tour
Aged 18: Finishes top of the Order of Merit on the European Tour

Rickie Fowler climbed 30 rungs to make it to the top 10, thanks to three major runner-up finishes in a row as well as coming fifth at the Masters. Compatriot Jordan Spieth went from 22nd to ninth in the rankings.

These are players who will inevitably attract a lot of interest in the new year but there are others who have laid down markers to suggest they will be worth watching in 2015.

Frenchman Alexander Levy is now just outside the top 50, having started the year 226th in the world, and it also would be wrong to ignore the progress of Englishman Andrew Johnston.

The 25-year-old from North Middlesex topped the Challenge Tour rankings with two victories among eight top-10 finishes. Now with full playing privileges he finished third at the recent Alfred Dunhill Championship in South Africa.

It's not a bad return for a player who began the year 615th in the world. Now he's knocking on the door of the world's top 100.

Having fully recovered from a wrist injury Johnston looks in great shape to make the most of what will be the second season of his career on the main European Tour.

Danny Willett, Michelle Wie and Rickie Fowler
England's Danny Willett, American Michelle Wie and Rickie Fowler all had a great year and moved several places up the rankings

The stand-out climber in the women's game was Michelle Wie, who fulfilled her immense teenage promise with victory at the US Open at Pinehurst in June. It was one of two wins among 13 top-10s for the 25-year-old.

Wie climbed from 61 in the world to number six in standings that continue to be led by the Korean Inbee Park.

It was a disappointing season for the British number one, Catriona Matthew. The 45-year-old Scot managed only three top-10s on the LPGA Tour as she slipped from 11th to 28th in the world.

She will be hoping to be reinvigorated by the prospect of another Solheim Cup appearance for Europe next year.

English youngster Charley Hull climbed from outside the top 100 to 38th as she collected the Ladies European Tour Order of Merit at just 18 years of age.

Hull is the outstanding home prospect for women's golf and with a mere 25-year-old from Northern Ireland commanding the men's standings, there's every reason to anticipate another enticing UK golfing hit parade in 2015.