Ryder Cup headache for McGinley as McIlroy's lawyers drag McDowell into Horizon dispute

Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell at the 2012 Ryder Cup opening ceremony at Medinah. Photo Eoin Clarke / www.golffile.ie

Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley could have a major team room problem on his hands at Gleneagles with Rory McIlroy's lawyers dragging former stablemate Graeme McDowell into his legal war with Horizon Sports Management.

World No 7 McIlroy said just last week that he wanted to clear the decks in his life and concentrate on his golf having split with Caroline Wozniacki and made up his mind on the Olympic question.

But it emerged in Dublin's Commercial Court today that the Holywood star will have his multi-million euro legal row with Horizon hanging over him for seven months until he has to go to give evidence in court for up to two weeks when the case is heard from January 27 next year.

[Read today's court reports in the Irish Independent and The Irish Times]

A court date could force McIlroy to miss the European Tour events in Abu Dhabi or Dubai at the start of the year, costing him more than $2 million in appearance fees. 

But unless the move triggers a rapid, out-of-court settlement, it could prove to be a major distraction for McIlroy, McDowell, the European Tour, Nike and McGinley, to name just five interested parties.

As things stand, there appears to be no chance of a settlement between McIlroy and Horizon after the 25-year old's lawyers brought McDowell into the mix today.

In a move that appears designed to put more pressure on the Horizon camp, McIlroy's lawyers asked Mr Justice Peter Kelly add two new elements to his case which is highly likely to remain unresolved during the Ryder Cup, which will be played at Gleneagles in Scotland from 26–28 September.

McIlroyt originally alleged that his 2011 deal with Horizon — which he still renewed in 2013 — was unenforceable on the grounds that he was not given proper legal advice as a 22-year old.

He also alleges that paying more than US $6.8 million in fees was “unreasonable” and “many times greater” than the going rate and wants the contract rescinded.

Horizon has refuted both accusations and countersued for US $3 million for allegedly outstanding off-course gross revenues and other fees as well as on-going damages.

Europe's Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy during Friday's afternoon fourball matches at Medinah Country Club, 28th September 2012. Photo Eoin Clarke/ www.golffile.ie

But McIlroy's lawyers now claim that have discovered that the former world No 1 was promised a similar deal to McDowell when he signed with Horizon but was given what they say were "markedly inferior” terms to his Ryder Cup partner.

This is also flatly denied by Horizon who say McIlroy was promised — and agreed to — a similar deal to the one he enjoyed with his previous manager, Chubby Chandler of ISM. [That deal was a verbal one as McIlroy had no written contract with ISM].

Whatever about his claims over McDowell's contract with Horizon, which is confidential, McIlroy also claims that he only discovered last year that McDowell was a shareholder in Horizon, which was also disputed by the boutique management firm.

McIlroy's deal is not with Horizon but with two shell companies (Gurteen and Canovan) designed to ring-fence his interests from outside interests. As for McDowell's shareholding in Horizon, he never executed his rights to benefit from any shareholding. With McIlroy's contracts signed with Canovan and Gurteen,  McDowell could never benefit directly from McIlroy's business dealings.

The move to involve McDowell is unlikely to succeed in pressurising Horizon into settling a case which could run for several weeks, or even months, if it eventually goes to court in late January.

McIlroy will certainly be required to testify.

If he loses, it could cost McIlroy several million euro, which would explain why his legal team may be hoping Horizon will collapse under the pressure and settle on the steps.

His lawyers asked Mr Justice Peter Kelly to hear the case over a six week period — three weeks at the end of December and three weeks at the start of January. However, that request was rejected for technical reasons and the case must be heard during the Hilary sitting from 12th January to 27th March.

Paul McGinley — then a vice captain — with Graeme McDowell during a practice day at Medinah, 26th September 2012. Photo Eoin Clarke / www.golffile.ie

Meanwhile, while McIlroy looks certain to make September's Ryder Cup team, McDowell has yet to qualify and could need a wildcard from McGinley if he fails to produce a big performance this summer.

"WeeMac" and "G-Mac" were partners in Europe's wins at Celtic Manor in 2010 and at Medinah two years ago and it remains to be seen how much damage will be done to their relationship by the legal wrangle. 

McDowell making some pointed remarks last Friday when asked about McIlroy finally making up his mind to declare for Ireland for the 2016 Olympic Games.

Referring to McIlroy's years of agonising over the decision, McDowell said pointedly: "I suppose the issue could have been settled very quickly with a straight answer."

It's certain that Ryder Cup skipper McGinley will continue to stay as far away as possible from the legal row between McIlroy and the Horizon stable, which includes McDowell and Shane Lowry.

Asked about McIlroy's management bust up last year, McGinley said: “A guy’s personal dealings is their own official business.”