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Rory McIlroy playing under cloud of 'tedious and nasty' trial


Rory McIlroy addresses the media ahead of the start of the Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club

Rory McIlroy addresses the media ahead of the start of the Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club

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Rory McIlroy addresses the media ahead of the start of the Dubai Desert Classic at the Emirates Golf Club

From one of the most cherished scenes of his career, to the most tawdry and in his words, "nasty". Rory McIlroy will complete one of sport's more mind-boggling of journeys on Sunday night when he leaves the Omega Dubai Desert Classic for the High Court in Dublin.

Barring a settlement on the courtroom steps, McIlroy will take the stand next week in his bitter legal battle with a former management company. If he loses and if the judge deems Horizon's contract with the world No 1 to be binding, the bill could run into the tens of millions.

In the process, McIlroy's life will be raked over by lawyers who care neither for his reputation nor that of the sport of golf. Little wonder he finally admitted yesterday that the whole sorry affair has been on his mind. How could it not have been?

"This is not something you want hanging over your head," McIlroy said. "It's not something that I would want anyone to go through.

"It's a very tedious and nasty process. It's a shame it has gone this far. But it's hard when two sides see things completely differently. The only way seems to be to get a judge to sort it out and tell us what to do."

McIlroy might have to appear in front of the beak for up to six days, as the legal teams pick over the contract he signed, which he claims to be "unconscionable" but which Horizon claims proves he owes them millions in commission.

When the judge no longer requires his presence, McIlroy will return to his West Palm Beach home and draw a line, regardless of how much it is eventually adjudicated he has to hand over, or otherwise.

Only then will he genuinely be able to prepare for his tilt at the career grand slam at the Masters in Augusta in April.

"Of course I can't wait for it to be finished," McIlroy said. "Hopefully, it won't take too long and it will all be over and done with and we can all move on with our lives. Yeah, I'm going to be heading to the States, regardless, with it off my mind. That will be it."

Golf as a whole will say amen to that. Since it first emerged almost two years ago that McIlroy was involved in an acrimonious split with the Dublin agency owned by Conor Ridge, the impending court showdown has become something of an elephant in every press room McIlroy has entered.

Here at the Emirates Course, it was inevitably no exception.

The European Tour media officer valiantly tried to make light of the situation, declaring at the conclusion: "This press conference is adjourned".

By that point, however, McIlroy's understandable discomfort was apparent. In truth, the 25-year-old has coped remarkably well with the distraction, compiling a run of form which has lacked only a win since his triumph at the US PGA Championship five months ago. Expect more of the same this week.

After all, the Desert Classic holds a unique spot in McIlroy's remarkable rise, having been his first tournament victory back in 2009.

The Northern Irishman is determined that nothing external will affect his hopes of securing a second title here, in a field which also features the likes of the world No 2 Henrik Stenson, Martin Kaymer, Lee Westwood and the Scot attempting to win three Dubai titles in succession, Stephen Gallacher.

"I'll have to turn my attention to the court case at some point and after this tournament is over I'll have to do some homework," McIlroy said.


"But I'm fully focused on this event and want to play well and try to win. This is a place with special memories for me. I have only had one win here, but it seems every time I come I have a chance. This week should be no exception."

Perhaps it is bizarre for a 25-year-old to be getting nostalgic, but so much has happened to McIlroy in the intervening years that it is impossible for him not to think back.

"I first played in this tournament 10 years ago when I was just an amateur, and I guess with breaking my duck here it was where it all began," he said.

"I had been playing well, broken into the top 50, but when you get your first win, you feel like you move to a different level.

"It has been six years since that win. And it hasn't been a bad six years. It's been okay."

Indeed, it has. Fourteen more titles, four of them Major championships, more than £20m in on-course earnings and upwards of £40m off the course.

Alas, it seems that everything comes at a price. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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