GOLFER Rory McIlroy is being counter-sued by his former agent Horizon Sports Management after terminating his contract with the Dublin firm.
Yesterday, a bruising legal battle got under way at the Commercial Court when Mr McIlroy's multi-million euro lawsuit against Horizon was transferred to the fast-track list.
Horizon, which wished Mr McIlroy well in his future golf career, said it will counter-sue for at least $2.6m (€1.9m) amid claims the former world number one broke a contract he "willingly entered into".
Mr McIlroy has claimed he has paid more than $6.8m (€5m) to Horizon based on what he says are unreasonable fee rates "many times greater" than is standard in the sports agency industry.
He later flew on to Seoul for this week's Korea Open, his first taste of tournament play after a four weeks' break. The proceedings come at a difficult time for Mr McIlroy as he begins his final push to turn around a barren year in which he plummeted from world number one spot last January down to sixth.
He has also recently split from his girlfriend, Danish tennis star Caroline Wozniaki.
In court papers, Mr McIlroy alleged he signed a three-year agreement with Horizon in late 2011 without receiving substantive independent legal advice. In a lengthy statement of claim, Mr McIlroy alleges the agreement was heavily weighted in favour of Horizon and detrimental to his interests. He also claims they took advantage of his lack of knowledge and experience of commercial transactions.
Under the deal, Horizon received 5pc of Mr McIlroy's winnings and 20pc of pre-tax sums from sponsorship and appearance fees.
The deal was revised last March, with Horizon losing its right to any of Mr McIlroy's on-course earnings and reducing its off-course fees to 15pc. Mr McIlroy says the revised deal was averse to his interests, but Horizon insists it is a legally binding contract.
Mr McIlroy alleges Horizon is not entitled to be paid certain fees into the future related to his Nike deal.
He is seeking court orders cancelling "restrictive" and "unconscionable" representation agreements with Horizon and related companies on grounds including alleged negligence, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.
Mr McIlroy also claims his relationship with the Creative Artists Agency – a worldwide agency acting for stars from sport and entertainment, including footballer David Beckham – was terminated due to the unreasonable conduct of Horizon and particularly its managing director Conor Ridge. Horizon disputes this allegation.
McIlroy plays next week's BMW Masters at Lake Malaren in Shanghai, where he won a record $2m (€1.4m) first prize in 2011, followed by a Monday showdown with Tiger Woods at Lake Jinsha in China, then the HBC World Championship back in Shanghai.