Rory McIlroy and Lewis Hamilton are expected to battle it out for the 2014 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, with Gareth Bale among the leading contenders to claim third place. Andy Murray became the fourth tennis player to prevail last December, following in the footsteps of Ann Jones, Virginia Wade and Greg Rusedski as a result of his Wimbledon success. This term, golfer McIlroy, who bids to emulate Dai Rees and Nick Faldo in obliging from that sport, is the firm favourite to poll most votes after storming to victory in The Open. Formula One star Hamilton hopes to become the fifth driver to get the nod after Stirling Moss, Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell (twice) and Damon Hill (twice) following his thrilling World Championship win. In all likelihood, Bale is only chasing the bronze medal spot alongside athlete Jo Pavey, equestrian ace Charlotte Dujardin and boxer Carl Froch. Fellow Wales winger Ryan Giggs did manager to sneak up on the rails and lift the trophy in 2009, as a result of a well-orchestrated campaign to give him recognition for all those sterling years of service at Manchester United. However, whether Bale's backers can conjure up a similar surge of late support is doubtful, even though the 25-year-old has enjoyed a stellar 2014, including helping Real Madrid to claim a record 10th Champions League triumph. Bobby Moore, Paul Gascoigne and Michael Owen were over victors from the world of soccer, but the competition looks fierce this term. "McIlroy's been the favourite to win since his emphatic Open win, but with Hamilton's championship title fresh in the minds of punters it has seen him pick up heavy support in the last month," said Magic Sign spokeswoman Jessica Bridge. "We'll be staggered if either of them finish outside of the top two." The race for third could also go right down to the wire, but Bale gets our vote to secure a deserved place on the podium.