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Rory McIlroy refuses to court controversy

By Karl MacGinty

With the Race to Dubai run, Rory McIlroy's thoughts at the Jumeirah Golf Estates yesterday were steered towards next spring and, inevitably, the dark monolith standing between the World No 1 and his career Grand Slam bid at April's Masters.

McIlroy offered confident assurance that next February's trial date for his Commercial Court action (and counter-suit) with former management company Horizon would not impinge on his usual early-season playing schedule nor impact on his mission at Augusta.

The Holywood native insisted experience of recent years had helped him become 'better at compartmentalising between stuff that's happening off the course and then being able to focus on what's going on on it'.

"I've got used to it," McIlroy explained when asked what made him so sure he could set aside outside distractions, even if glaring incidents last year suggested the opposite - his stunning walk-out at Honda last year would seem like a case in point, as would his 'brain-dead' 79 in the first round of the 2013 Open.

"I've got better at it," the 25-year-old went on. "It's just something that's been part of my life for the last couple of years now, so that's how and that's why I handle it better now."

McIlroy's victory at May's BMW PGA, days after terminating his engagement to Caroline Wozniacki, seems a convincing case in point.

Yet his expansion yesterday on the reasons why he felt the need earlier this month to sort out case issues with his lawyers, causing McIlroy to miss the BMW Masters and HSBC Champions in Shanghai, illustrated just how taxing pre-trial business can be, even at such a far remove.

"I just had to get a few things tied up and it had to be done by a certain deadline," McIlroy said. "So there was a lot of time that I needed to put into doing what I had to do, basically. And it sort of went up until the Tuesday of HSBC (November 4).

"I could have gone there (HSBC) but I would have been totally ill-prepared to play. So there was no reason to go to an event without having your best stuff there."

Disappointed with the failure of a court-prompted attempt at mediation between the two sides, McIlroy confirmed he'd found it frustrating to sit in a lawyers office rather than playing in the European Tour's Final Series.

"There was an opportunity before those events to put it all to bed and it didn't quite work out," he said. "I'd have preferred to be playing golf but these things happen."

McIlroy opens 2015 with the Abu Dhabi HSBC (January 15 to 18), followed by the Omega Dubai Desert Classic (January 29 to February 1), while the trial date is set (if not in stone) for February 3, two days later. "It will not impact on my playing in Dubai," he insisted. "And it won't impact my early-season schedule."

Meanwhile, American Rickie Fowler has confirmed his entry for the Irish Open at Royal County Down next May.

Fowler is a long-time friend of McIlroy, with their friendship beginning when the pair played at the venue in the 2007 Walker Cup .

"I really look forward to him joining me at Royal County Down, one of the world's finest links," said McIlroy. The Ulsterman pipped Fowler to the Open and US PGA Major titles this year and defeated the American in the Ryder Cup singles in September.

"It would also be great if we could both be in contention towards the end," added McIlroy.

Fowler was the first player McIlroy approached after it was announced that his charitable foundation, The Rory Foundation, will become the official tournament host from 2015.

Fowler said: "When Rory asked I was really keen because of the memories we have there, and also because it is such a great course."

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