Rory McIlroy: Looming court case puts doubt on 2015 Major hopes

Court case - Feb; Masters - April - will Rory be ready for the Augusta challenge?

Rory McIlroy is due to appear in court this coming February as his court case with old agents Horizon finally comes to a head - and that could derail the 5.85/1 antepost favourite's Augusta bid, says Ralph Ellis... 

"He is 5.85/1 favourite for Augusta, where he can become only the sixth golfer in history to complete a career Grand Slam. But the lightening fast greens are not the place to be if your game isn't perfectly honed."

The last - and probably only - time a world number one stepped off the golf circuit for anything other than an injury was when Tiger Woods had his marriage meltdown.

Thankfully Rory McIlroy's problems are more business than personal, but the news that the young man who has been this year's big thing is about to miss two significant tournaments has still come as a shock to the golfing world this morning.

Somehow it seemed that the 25-year-old had put all his problems off the course behind him. He used hitting golf balls - and hitting them unbelievably well - as his way of emerging from his break up with Caroline Wozniacki. And the multi-million lawsuit with his former agents appeared to be heading for a mediated settlement.

Instead all the lawyers did was haggle over what documents could be shown in court, and they haven't even agreed on that. So McIlroy, whose dispute with his old agents Horizon involves tens of millions of pounds, has withdrawn from both the BMW Masters next week in Shanghai and the WGC HSBC Champions tournament in China which should have followed it.  He wants, he says, to get fully prepared to go in front of the judge.

Before the Ryder Cup Phil Mickelson tried to get under the skin of Europe's top player by talking about a case which could force McIlroy to demand that Graeme McDowell's earnings are made public. Northern Ireland's top two players tried to brush it off by insisting they had no issues. Clearly it wasn't so simple, and there was a very good reason why captain Paul McGinley split up the pairing of G-Mac and Wee Mac that had been so important in previous contests.

Rory remains unbackable in the Race to Dubai with a lead of more than £2m he's 1.021/50 to lay should you feel so inclined. But the big question which will hang over him now is how badly this business will affect his prospects next year.

It's not expected to be until February that his case claiming he was coerced as a young and naïve professional into signing a deal that gave Horizon excessive commissions will be heard. We all know what lawyers are like, these things drag on. And suddenly it might start to damage his preparation for Augusta and The Masters in April.

He is 5.85/1 favourite for Augusta, where he can become only the sixth golfer in history to complete a career Grand Slam. But the lightening fast greens are not the place to be if your game isn't perfectly honed - and that's before you even begin to worry about the trees and cabins around the tenth that must still hold nightmare memories from his 2011 meltdown.

After his brilliant performances at The Open and then again at the USPGA, it seemed McIlroy was on nothing but an upward curve. Somebody backed him at 70.069/1 in the Rory Specials market to sweep up all four majors in 2015 and that didn't seem so fanciful.

Now the issues around his future are clouded again, and we will wait to see how the story unfolds. Tiger has never fully recovered from the way his career stalled when he was the number one who stepped away from the golf course. We just have to hope that Rory's talent isn't so badly derailed.

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