Rory McIlroy: Race to Dubai winner enjoying focusing on golf

By Iain CarterBBC golf correspondent
Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy won the Ryder Cup with Europe in September

Rory McIlroy's ability to compartmentalise his career is perhaps his most impressive quality.

While he has compiled his best season to date, culminating in this week being crowned Race to Dubai winner for the second time in three years, he has been battling the stress of court proceedings against his former management company.

After the failure of a recent mediation process, the legal case with the Dublin-based Horizon Sports Management agency is scheduled to go to court in February next year.

McIlroy pulled out of two recent events in China to concentrate on preparing for the legal proceedings.

But he has spent the last 10 days in Dubai to ready himself for the season-ending World Tour Championship, an event he won two years ago to clinch the money list title.

Rory McIlroy
Rory McIlroy split from fiancee Caroline Wozniacki in May

This time he has wrapped up the Race crown ahead of schedule while the Horizon case has been bubbling under the surface. He claimed the Open and US PGA titles as well as the WGC Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone in August.

McIlroy's other victory, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, came in the immediate aftermath of his May split from fiancee Caroline Wozniacki.

This was the first win that showed his ability to put aside off-course troubles and it kick-started his stellar summer.

"I've been able to put a few things out of my mind this year and just focus on golf. It's really been the first year I've been able to do it," McIlroy told BBC Sport. "I guess getting used to it has been a big part of being able to do it.

"It's nice to get back to the golf tournaments and golf courses and to solely think about that. And just get back to an environment that I'm 100% comfortable in.

"It's almost like a holiday coming back to playing tournaments."

McIlroy admits that the time in lawyers' offices can take a toll. "It is stressful in some ways, it takes up quite a lot of time," he said.

"I think anyone who has been in this position will tell you it's not the nicest thing to go through."

Race to Dubai rankings
RankNameCountryTournaments playedPoints
1Rory McIlroyNorthern Ireland145,400,700
2Henrik StensonSweden192,674,186
3Jamie DonaldsonWales242,575,847
4Marcel SiemGermany212,471,873
5Sergio GarciaSpain162,459,649
6Brooks KoepkaUnited States142,412,876
7Alexander LevyFrance292,216,192
8Justin RoseEngland132,007,861
9Thomas BjornDenmark251,943,682
10Victor DubuissonFrance221,938,066

He is confident the case will not derail his bid to complete a career grand slam at the Masters next April.

"It'll be over in a few months and I'll have a clear mind and a clear head going to Augusta which is the important thing," he said.

"As long as everyone appreciates that and knows that then everything will be OK."

The world number one confirmed that the case will not affect his playing schedule next year. "We've done it in a way which has been nice in that it won't impact on any tournaments that I have planned to play next year," McIlroy explained

"All the tournaments that I usually play at the start of the year, I'm going to play again.

"It might take out a couple of weeks where I would normally practise but I'm not missing any tournaments which is important to me."

Aside from contesting the court case, which centres around his terms when he was a Horizon client, McIlroy is making the most of his growing influence on the game.

His charitable foundation will be backing next year's Irish Open at Royal County Down. The event is already reaping rewards from the relationship as McIlroy has persuaded American star Rickie Fowler to join the field.

And the involvement of leading players in backing and promoting tournaments is a trend that is gathering momentum.

Rory McIlroy: I'll embrace Masters pressure next year

Last week Scotland's most recent major winner, Paul Lawrie, announced he will be staging a 64-man matchplay event on the European Tour at the Murcar Links next August.

The 1999 Open champion has exploited the business contacts he has nurtured in the prosperous Aberdeen area and it has resulted in another British date on the Tour schedule.

It is a move that might encourage other home players to try to follow a similar route. This particularly applies to English stars like Ian Poulter, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald.

All three are based in the United States but would do their British profile a power of good, as well as tapping into the golf-starved market in England, if they could follow suit.

Certainly Welshman Jamie Donaldson can see the potential benefits, and he told BBC Sport that he would be keen to follow Lawrie's example.

"I'd love to get involved in something like that," said the man who sealed Europe's recent Ryder Cup victory.

"Especially if there is no Wales Open next year, that would be incredible to get involved in.

"Obviously I've still got a lot left to do in my playing career, but certainly at the end of it I would love to get involved in stuff like that.

"Also if there's people who want to get involved, I don't mind. I'd love to spearhead another Welsh Open, maybe at a links course if not Celtic Manor again.

"There's so many great golf courses in Wales. I'd love to bring another Welsh Open to what is a great golfing country.

"I would gladly get involved in anything that helps the European Tour to bring more events on," added Donaldson.

More immediately, the Pontypridd man is looking to end an outstanding season on a real high in Dubai. That is something else he has in common with McIlroy.

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