McIlroy admits negative impact of legal wrangling on his golf game during 2013
Split with Horizon management company and the subsequent fallout has taken its toll on former world number one
Rory McIlroy: “I have seen more lawyers offices and more lawyers this year than I care to see in my entire life.”
A year since he sat on top of the golfing world, Rory McIlroy has spoken expansively for the first time about the negative impact that off-course matters have had on his game.
A turbulent 2013 in tournament golf for McIlroy has been mirrored by events surrounding his split from the Horizon management company.
The detail of that contract exit is the subject of a multi-million euro legal case, which was first formally aired in a Dublin courtroom last month. A legal dispute between McIlroy and one of his former sponsors, Oakley, also remains unresolved.
The Co Down man, who has slipped from number one to number six in the world, once firmly asserted there had “never been any distractions” to his professional life. In Dubai, McIlroy finally confirmed that had not recently been the case.
“Definitely, there have been a few things that have impacted,” said McIlroy. “Obviously there have been a few different things to think about and different things occupy your head that really shouldn’t.
“But, you know, it’s just the way it is and the position that I am in. It’s something that will be sorted out hopefully sooner rather than later.”
As and when that happens, McIlroy admitted there will be a huge sense of relief.
“Yes, for sure,” he said. “I have obviously got people to handle that sort of stuff for me and I only see a fraction of it, the stuff that I really want to see.
“So I have got people dealing with that. But it’s something, as I said, that shouldn’t be in my mind. It’s something that I don’t really think any athlete or anyone should ever go through.
“I have seen more lawyers offices and more lawyers this year than I care to see in my entire life. It’s not something I ever want to go through again and I’m making sure that I won’t ever go through it again.”
McIlroy, thankfully, hasn’t lost his refreshing honesty. The same was true at this year’s British Open, where he alarmingly claimed to be feeling “brain dead” when on the golf course.
“There was no specific time when I hit a bad shot because I was thinking of this,” McIlroy added. “But as a golfer, you want your mind as clear as possible and it’s obviously hard for that to happen when you have other things going on that, firstly, you don’t want to happen and secondly you don’t think should be happening.
“It has been a distraction. But as I said, I have only seen a fraction of it and I haven’t had to deal with it as much as some of the guys around me. It’s something that obviously I have not wanted to have in my life.”
McIlroy was similarly forthright when asked to compare this year to 2012, when a win here at the Earth Course endorsed his status as the world’s leading player.
“It’s funny, it’s like polar opposites,” explained the 24-year-old. “I guess I learnt last year how to deal with the hype and deal with people building you up. This year I have had to deal with criticism. So it has been two opposite ends of the spectrum.
“I try to learn from everything that I do. Every year is a learning year. Every year for me is still a new experience. Last year was getting to world number one and being the dominant player in the world for a while. This year, it has been having to handle criticism and scrutiny.”
Should McIlroy need advice, it seems likely he would turn again to Tiger Woods. Some may question whether Woods’s influence on McIlroy could be entirely positive, given the much-publicised scandals of the 14-time Major winner. McIlroy himself, though, clearly sees no issue.
“I think I learned a bit more about time management last year,” said McIlroy. “Last year was the first time where the demands on my time, I guess it actually got to me a little bit. I said that I had to remember what got me here in the first place; dedicating myself to my practise and working on my game.
“It’s something that Tiger actually told me last year. He said you have to remember what got you here in the first place and I think you guys know, with Tiger it is ‘no’ 99 per cent of the time, which is a good thing.
“It’s what he needs to do to be the player that he is and to have the career that he has had. If that works for him then that’s great.
“I’d say I’m a little more forgiving with my time than that but there still needs to be a point where you say ‘no’ and look after yourself.”