McIlroy eager to put "tedious and nasty" legal action behind him
Rory McIlroy in Dubai. Picture by @Getty Images. Effect by @Lowpolybot

Rory McIlroy in Dubai. Picture by @Getty Images. Effect by @Lowpolybot

Rory McIlroy used the word "disappointed" four times in his preview interview for the Dubai Desert Classic. Fortunately, he's brilliantly learned how to deal the few misfortunes that have come his way on the golf course in recent years.

His golf genius is unquestioned, which is why he's obliged to say he'll be disappointed if he doesn't win the tournament, just as he's normally disappointed when he's forced to settle for a Top-5 finish. 

He was disappointed, for instance, to finish second to Gary Stal in Abu Dhabi two weeks ago and disappointed he didn't take advantage of a lucky bounce on the 72nd hole in the DP World Tour Championship last year and force his way into a play off with a birdie.

In short, he's got high standards, which is why his T22-T5-T8-T2-T2-T2-T15-2 run since he won his fourth major in the US PGA at Valhalla last August must be, well, a disappointment.

How he might take a disappointment in his legal battle with Horizon Sports Management, scheduled to start in the High Court in Dublin next Tuesday, remains to be seen.

Even though he's the plaintiff in the case, he admitted in Dubai that the 16 months have passed since he inititated proceedings against Horizon during the week of Graeme McDowell's wedding, haven't exactly been a barrel of laughs.

Like any right minded person, he says he'll be happy when it's all over, whatever the result when he heads to Florida for the start of his build up to the Masters in a few weeks' time.

"Yeah, of course. It's not something that I would want anyone to go through. It's a very sort of tedious and nasty process at times," he said. "Yeah, look, I'm going to be heading to the States regardless with it off my mind and not having to deal with it or think about it, that will be it. It will be nice once it's over and done with, yeah."

If that was an admission that the legal case has been preying on his mind, he wasn't prepared to admit it. 

"No, to be honest, I've been concentrating on this and practise and that stuff's much more important to me than what's going to happen next week," he said. 

"I haven't -- after this tournament's over, I'll have to do my homework a little bit but at the same time, I'm fully focused on this event and golf and try and do the best I can this week."

He certainly didn't rule out a settlement on the steps of the court. Nor did he rule it in.

"You'll have to -- you'd have to ask my lawyers about that," he said. "I'm just being told what to do and when to be there and where to be and that's really it."

Whatever about the business of golf, McIlroy has clear ideas about how to go about his business on the course.

“I’d be disappointed if I don't win, to be honest," McIlroy said. "But I think everyone should feel that way, I don't think that's just me. You come here to try to win events, you're not here to try to finish in the top five.

“Sometimes you walk away from a week and you're satisfied with the top five because you haven't played that well, so you've got the best out of the week, even if you're still disappointed that you couldn't perform better. So I guess that's a benchmark, you're trying to go in there and win every event you do play."

His desire to win has been heightened by the fact that he has finished second in his last three European Tour starts at St Andrews, Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

“I'd definitely like to break the runners up duck the right way rather than the wrong way," he said. "We'll see, but I'm comfortable on this golf course and I have good memories here. I seem to play the course very well, so hopefully I can continue to do that this week.”

Learning from mistakes and disappointment is something that has served McIlroy well over the years.

He brilliantly learned the lessons from his Masters meltdown from 2011, especially when it comes to body language and tentativeness on the golf course.

He's also listened to advice and corrected mistakes and credits a reminder about his putting alignment from his pal Harry Diamond at the Masters last year as the key to resurrection with that club.

"I started standing too far open and pushing it out with my left hand," he said of his eye alignment last year. "It sort of takes a bad putting week or an eye opener like Augusta for me to say something needs to change here." 

If all goes well for him in court over the next few weeks, McIlroy could save himself millions of dollars. If not, he'll end up paying Horizon what he owes on his contracts, at the very least. In short, it could put a slight dent in his huge fortune.

As he says himself, it's in the hands of the lawyers now and as such, there's little he can do now, bar the obvious.

The same could be said for Darren Clarke and the Ryder Cup captaincy now that Miguel Angel Jimenez has sniffed some support in the air and decided to assert himself as the search begins for the 2016 skipper.

McIlroy has already publicly supported Clarke, his former stablemate and fellow countryman. So it was suprising to hear him temper his support for the Ulsterman on Wednesday — a marked contrast to his very public call for Paul McGinley to get the captaincy two years ago.

"I think they are going to have a tough decision," he said of the decision facing the five-man selection committee that features the last three captains, David Howell and George O'Grady. 

"Look, I always thought Darren would be a perfect fit for captaincy in the States. People love him over there and he'll do well. But at the same time, people love Miguel anywhere he goes, and the more he plays on the Champions Tour, he won last week, he's going to become more popular, as well.

"So they will have a tough decision on their hands. They are both quality candidates and great players in their own right. So, I mean, it's not up to me at the end of the day, and as long as I'm on the team and they decide to play me, I'm happy enough."

Asked if he expect to be consulted by the five-man committee who will decide, he said: "I think so. I haven't really been consulted about it as of yet, so as I said, it's not really -- I guess in a way it is something to do with me because hopefully I'll be on the team but at the same time it's up to them to make a decision. 

"I mean, if I'm -- I'm going to be a little biased; Darren is a good friend of mine and from Northern Ireland and everything, so it would be great to see him get the captaincy. But at the same time if it was to be Miguel, then I would have no problems with that either."

Two years ago, McIlroy spoke up for McGinley during his $100m Nike launch. At the time he felt it was crucial that the committee knew his feelings as well as those of Justin Rose and Luke Donald.

"You know, I'm not even sure if there's anyone sitting on the players' committee who is even going to make The Ryder Cup Team," he said at the time when justifying his pro-McGinley stance. "So I would like to think that our opinions are valuable to them and that they make the decision based on that."

Of course, the selection of the skipper has now been taken out of the hands of the Players Committee and handed to an even smaller coterie — immediate past captains Colin Montgomerie, McGinley and José María Olazábal as well as Howell and O'Grady, who was determined that there would be no repeat of what he said was an "unseemly" campaign last time.

As for the golf.  McIlroy has been playing in the Dubai Desert Classic since he was an amateur but Graeme McDowell is making his first appearance in the event since 2010.

“It’s my first start of the year, so I’m looking forward to it," said the world No 19, who has former caddie Matt Harbour on the bag this week as regular bagman Ken Comboy recovers from recent knee surgery. 

"It’s just a great place to come and start the season. I guess my thinking was that there would be sunshine and a perfect golf course and I've been certainly rewarded with both this week."

Now married with a young child, McDowell turns 36 this summer knowing it's his time to start pushing for another major win.

"I'm feeling fresh and things are certainly good in my life off the golf course, which I feel is giving me the mental space and mental energy to remotivate and refocus on my game and certainly concentrate on the next four or five years ahead and try to be the best I can be.

“I'm excited about it. I've got a great schedule this year, very similar to last year. Every tournament is very, very important to me. This one's certainly no different, and I'm here to compete and to do the job if I can.”

Clarke, Damien McGrane, Peter Lawrie and Michael Hoey complete the Irish challenge in the desert in an event where McIlroy is the favourite ahead of Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, McDowell, Lee Westwood, Joost Luiten and Scotland's Stephen Gallacher, who is going for a hat-trick of wins.