LONDON - World number one Rory McIlroy is taking time away from golf early next year to better deal with the muliti-million dollar legal dispute he has with his former management company.
The Northern Irishman took the decision after lawyers representing himself and the Dublin-based Horizon company failed to reach an out-of-court agreement settling a complex contractual dispute.
"I'm going to need time away from tournament golf to prepare for the trial over my legal dispute with Horizon Sports Management," said McIlroy via his new management company.
"The court-directed mediation process failed over the weekend to resolve the issue." The hearing is set to take place in February and McIlroy has already opted to withdraw from two top tournaments in Shanghai at the end of this month and early next - the BMW Masters and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions tournament.
McIlroy signed up with Horizon in late 2011, only to begin proceedings against them almost a year ago, alleging the contract to be "unconscionable" due to "excessive commissions".
Via a counter lawsuit, Horizon, instrumental in McIlroy's lucrative five-year contract with Nike, are citing breach of contract and loss of future commissions.
Calls for an out-of-court settlement from Mr Justice Peter McGovern, who predominantly sits on Ireland's Commercial Court, fell on deaf ears.
The concern now is how the trial will affect 25-year-old McIlroy's preparations for the Masters, the first of the year's four majors, which starts on April 9.
The Ryder Cup star has won the last two majors - the British Open and the USPGA and he would likely be the favourite at Augusta to make it three in a row.
At present, McIlroy is scheduled to play in two events in the Middle East in mid-to-late January, early February, along with the Honda Classic in West Palm Beach from February 26.