- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England -- The kid Rory McIlroy nearly knocked out Thursday was gleaming Friday, standing behind the star golfer as he did interviews with a smile showing braces, the bump on his head mildly evident.
Jason Blue, 16, was in the right place at the wrong time in the first round of the Open Championship when McIlroy sent his tee shot soaring to the right of the 15th fairway at Royal Lytham & St. Annes. The ball hit Blue in the head, sending him to the ground, the ball unluckily bounding out of bounds on a hole where nobody knew there was any.
It was a tough blow for both parties, as the kid had a headache and McIlroy had to head back to the tee and hit again. McIlroy autographed a golf glove for Blue on which he wrote "Sorry,'' then later signed for a first-round 67.
And then he took it further. Learning that Blue and a friend were attending the Open by staying in a tent at a nearby cricket field turned into a campsite that was saturated because of rain, McIlroy decided to put him up in a local hotel. The golfer paid for a room at a St. Annes hotel and gave him some cash.
"Not much. ... Well, it's all relative,'' McIlroy said. "A hundred-something quid.''
That's in the neighborhood of $165 and, on top of a free hotel room, a fairly nice gesture.
"The hotel was very nice -- especially compared to the campsite,'' Blue said.
His friend, Ross Furnival, 17, also was impressed.
"It has been brilliant and incredible,'' he said. "We got a phone call from [McIlroy's] manager, and we thought they were winding us up. They came and picked us up and took us back to the hotel. They were phoning up every hotel and asking what was the best room they had available.''
Blue is a 12-handicap golfer from Bristol, England, who said his parents would join him in Lytham St. Annes on Friday night -- back at the campsite -- so they could attend the Open on Saturday. Bristol is in the west part of England near Wales, several hours away by car.
"I thought it was the least I could do,'' McIlroy said. "I didn't want him sleeping the night in a tent when he's got a massive gash in the side of his head. Yeah, I put him and his mate up for the night and gave them a bit of cash to go for a bit of good last night.
"I actually tried to get them into the hotel for a couple more nights, but they were just fully booked, so last night was the only night they got to spend. But, as I said, it was the least I could do. If someone gave me a big hole in my head, I wouldn't be too happy.''
Of course, the way McIlroy's Friday was going, his room might have been available. He didn't miss the cut, but he probably shot himself out of the tournament with a 5-over-par 75.
Such good deeds ought to result in some nice karma, but the golf gods must have missed the nice gesture.
McIlroy, who rebounded from the double-bogey he made at the 15th on Thursday to birdie two of the last three holes, was unable to get much going in the second round and fell 12 strokes back of leader Brandt Snedeker.
The Northern Irishman had made a couple of early birdies to get to 4 under par for the tournament, but it all sort of fell apart when McIlroy found a greenside bunker at the ninth and needed two tries to extricate himself. He made a double-bogey.
From there, McIlroy added no birdies, and his 75 put him at 142, 2 over par.
"It wasn't the best day out there,'' said the 2011 U.S. Open champion, who is ranked second in the world. "I was doing pretty well just to hang in there around par on the front nine. And making a double on the ninth was sort of the turning point in the round, and I couldn't really recover from that.
"It's tough when you're really trying to get something going and it's just not quite happening. You're sort of just trying to force it a little bit. And that's what I did today.''
As for Blue, he needed medical attention and had his head bandaged after the accident in the first round.
But, after a night in the local hotel, he was at the course to follow McIlroy on Friday and meet him after the round.
"I can remember something hit me in the head, and I fell over," Blue said. "I thought, 'What the hell was that?' We couldn't see the tee because everyone had umbrellas up, and so we had no idea it was coming towards us."
"I closed my eyes with the shock of it as I tried to work out what happened. I wasn't out cold. Then there was people crowding around me.''
Blue expressed regret that the ball went out of bounds, a fluke if there ever was one. McIlroy said he wasn't aware there even was out of bounds on the hole.
Nonetheless, he got a couple of pretty big fans out of the deal.
"I can't believe what's happened,'' Blue said. "It has been incredible.''
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