McIlroy has an advantage of more than £2 million in the Race to Dubai, but this announcement means that one of the pursuers, such as Sergio García or Henrik Stenson, could conceivably catch him in the Order of Merit race.
McIlroy said last month that he was hopeful that the peace talks – ordered by a judge who felt uncomfortable with the name of Graeme McDowell being dragged into the court proceedings – would be successful. But, apparently, the two sides remained at irretrievable odds, with the discussion ultimately not concentrating on a settlement but instead on which documents could be disclosed at the full trial, which is likely to be held in February.
It is believed that McIlroy will play in the Abu Dhabi Championship, to held on Jan 15-18, but he could miss the Dubai Desert Classic, which starts on Jan 29, which is sponsored by one his endorsers, Omega. McIlroy will be keen that any prospective trial does not run into the last week of February, when he is due to play in the Honda Classic in his adopted home town of West Palm Beach. If it does, then his Masters plans could well be affected.
The irony would be that Omega is part of the multi-million argument, because Horizon, which has launched a counter-action against McIlroy’s original decision to sue when he left the Dublin agency last year, will insist that it is due commission on the contract. However, the arguments will surely zoom in on the $ 100 million (£62 million) deal he signed with Nike in January 2013.
The involvement of McDowell is the most alluring of headline magnets. McIlroy’s lawyers contend that McDowell – who they claim is a Horizon shareholder – was on “markedly superior” commercial terms, despite assurances the two Ulstermen were on similar deals. Horizon denied this was ever the case.
McIlroy initiated the proceedings against the Dublin agency a year ago, saying that as a young and naive professional he was coaxed into signing an “unconscionable contract” which stipulated “excessive commissions”. That move came days after he had official split with Horizon and formed his own company, Rory McIlroy Inc.
He joined Horizon in 2011 and it was while he was with the company that he signed up with Nike and other major sponsors, including Omega and Bose. Horizon believes it is due commissions paid as well as future commissions, which could run into tens of millions.
The involvement of McIlroy and McDowell on opposite sides in the legal battle led to Phil Mickelson making a quip at last month’s Ryder Cup that not only did the US players get along “but we don’t litigate against each other either”. McIlroy and McDowell brushed off the jibe and insisted their relationship had actually been strengthened by the long-running affair.
McDowell is leaving Horizon when his contract expires at the end of the year and will also be setting up his own company. However, with McIlroy’s lawyers demanding papers showing McDowell’s contractual arrangements with Horizon should be made available for the court hearing, his financial details could become public knowledge.
Horizon denies assurances were made to McIlroy and has pointed out that in early 2013 McIlroy signed an extension to his contract with renewed terms which reduced Horizon’s commission from 20 per cent to 15 per cent of off-course earnings.