Rory McIlroy to skip two events to focus on legal row
By Stephanie Wei under Rory McIlroy

Rory McIlroy’s legal dispute with former Dublin-based management company Horizon has escalated, with the world no. 1 withdrawing from two tournaments in China to prepare for trial that’s expected to take place in February.

On Monday McIlroy announced he will skip both the BMW Masters and the WGC-HSBC Champions at the end of this month and the start of the next, respectively. The court mediation between the two parties failed, and thus, the case will proceed to a full hearing.

“I’m going to need time away from tournament golf to prepare for the trial over my legal dispute with Horizon Sports Management,” Rory told the Irish Independent.

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

This sets a cloud over McIlroy as he plans his schedule for early next year, too. Will he have to cut back on his number of starts as he prepares to complete the career grand slam next April at the Masters? — because it sounds like he’ll be spending a good amount of February stressed out in the trial box of a courtroom, hashing out the details of the ugly legal battle with Horizon.

McIlroy filed suits against his former management in 2013, claiming a representation agreement signed by him in December 2011 is invalid and unenforceable on grounds including alleged undue influence. He alleges the agreement was signed when he was only 22, inexperienced and without the advantage of independent legal advice.

The defendants at Horizon deny the claims and have countersued for $3 million, which is allegedly outstanding per the agreement for off-course revenues. They also contend that additional monies are owed under both the December 2011 agreement and another agreement signed in March 2013. Horizon is claiming damages for alleged past and continuing breaches of both contracts, as well.

At court last month, Mr. Justice Brian McGovern proposed both sides try to mediate the dispute privately and that was agreed upon. (To my understanding, it was decided that way, so that the detailed financial dealings of Graeme McDowell, a Horizon client, would not have to come into the public domain.) However, when the matter came back to the judge on Monday, he was informed the mediation was unsuccessful and the case was headed for trial.

The case will return to court in November to review documents under discovery.

McIlroy’s next competitive tournament will be the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai from November 20-23.