McIlroy taking break from golf to settle legal dispute with management company

World No.1 Rory McIlroy faces a stint away from the golf course as preparations begin for his court case early next year.

The contractual dispute between lawyers representing McIlroy and his former management company Horizon have raged on for some time now, and with recent attempts at a resolution between the two parties ultimately proving fruitless, it now seems their legal battle will end in the courts.

"I'm going to need time away from tournament golf to prepare for the trial over my legal dispute with Horizon Sports Management," said McIlroy via his management company.

"The court-directed mediation process failed over the weekend to resolve the issue."

With a hearing expected to take place in February, McIlroy has decided to withdraw from two events in Shanghai at the tail end of this month and early next week – the BMW Masters and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions tournament – in order to better prepare for the case, with millions of pounds at stake.

The relationship between McIlroy and Horizon looked nothing short of rosy in late 2011 when the Northern Irishman signed with the management company, although almost a year later he would open legal proceedings against them after alleging the contract to be “unconscionable” due to “excessive commissions.”

That sparked Horizon into making a counter lawsuit against McIlroy. The company had been one of the driving forces behind his career and were instrumental in securing McIlroy’s five-year contract with Nike, worth £62million, and are citing breach of contract and loss of future commissions.

There were even calls for an out-of-court settlement from Mr Justice Peter McGovern, who predominantly sits on Ireland’s Commercial Court, but his efforts fell on deaf ears.

From a golfing standpoint, there is concern that McIlroy will be adversely affected by the trial. The Masters is due to begin on April 9, but where will the World No.1’s head be at that point, and what physical condition he will be in might also be a worry.

As it stands, the Nike player is scheduled to play in two events in the Middle East in mid to late January to early February, while he is also pencilled in to compete at the Honda Classic in West Palm Beach from February 26.