Rory McIlroy is named BBC NI Sport Personality of 2011

Rory McIlroy
McIlroy clinched his maiden major title at the Congressional Club in June

Rory McIlroy has been named BBC Northern Ireland's Sports Personality of the Year for 2011.

The 22-year-old capped a spectacular year by winning his first major championship - the US Open - and he is now number two in the world rankings.

McIlroy pipped Open champion Darren Clarke for the award while Ulster and Ireland rugby star Rory Best was third.

"I am thrilled to be named as the BBC Northern Ireland Sports Personality of the Year," said McIlroy.

"Looking back on 2011, it's been an amazing 12 months of my life.

"It's been a year I will always remember, not least because I won my first major.

"That victory at the US Open in Washington would not have been possible without the fantastic support from my family.

"I would also like to thank all the great support from everyone in Northern Ireland.

"Looking forward to getting to Belfast for Christmas - and then in 2012, hopefully bringing more silverware back home"

A shortlist of seven sports stars was voted on by a panel of judges comprising Irish FA President Jim Shaw, Sport NI chief executive Eammon McCartan, Ulster director of rugby David Humphreys, former GAA all-star and Armagh great Oisin McConville, ex-Northern Ireland captain Jim Magilton, and editor of sport at BBC NI, Shane Glynn.

The panel had to pick a winner from a list of contenders that also included paralympian Sally Brown, Donegal GAA All-Star Karl Lacey, Dungiven boxer Paul McCloskey and British Supersport champion Alastair Seeley.

Editor of Sport at BBC NI Shane Glynn said: "Once again, we had a very strong shortlist for the judges to vote on - all would have been worthy winners.

"In the end it was a very close call between Rory and Darren, who both had extraordinary years.

"I'd like to congratulate Rory on his richly deserved award.

"He's thrilled us all with some of his golf this year, which at times, especially during the Masters and the US Open, was simply breathtaking.

"I'd also like to thank the judges for their time and commitment."

Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke are both on the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year 2011.

The award will be presented at the live show on 22 December following a public phone vote.

This year the event, which will be held at MediaCityUK in Salford, will be screened live on BBC One and BBC One HD from 8pm, and broadcast on BBC Radio 5 live.

The other shortlisted contenders are: Mark Cavendish (cycling), Alastair Cook (cricket), Luke Donald (golf), Mo Farah (athletics), Dai Greene (athletics), Amir Khan (boxing), Andy Murray (tennis) and Andrew Strauss (cricket).