The throngs following Scottie Scheffler sound louder after his arrest

LOUISVILLE - As if the path to a more fervent golf gallery goes straight through the jailhouse, Scottie Scheffler played his opening nine holes Friday to throngs with a tenor upgraded relative to his norm. It got fairly loud out there as some tagged along because they would have anyway given Scheffler is the world’s No. 1 player, and some followed for the spectacle of seeing a man attempt precision hours after an arrest left him photographed in orange.

He played in white, and from the get-go it resembled a Tiger Woods gallery in terms of crowdedness and human thickets, but with the twist of the oft-heard shout, “Free Scottie!” He began on No. 10 in a threesome of the most recent major champions, announced after the 2023 U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark and the 2023 Open Championship champion Brian Harman teed off to polite cheers. “And next to play, from Texas, Scottie Scheffler!” the tee announcer said from her nearby podium.

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The unusual morning with steady if not onerous rain began with a quick swell of a cheer for a player whose low-grade equanimity often gets cast as dull.

He began playing, and he began playing well for a man booked at 7:28 a.m., arriving at 9:12 a.m. and teeing off at 10:08 a.m. His attempt at a rare compartmentalization featured a birdie at No. 10 after hitting to three feet, a bogey at No. 11 after a missed five-footer, and a birdie at No. 12 to a gigantic roar with even more oomph than usual for the sight of a 27-footer that plunks into the hole. The feeling for Scheffler early on carried enough heft that as the golfers went from the 12th green to the 13th tee, a fan dredged some laughs by hollering, “Wyndham, too! Yeah, Wyndham!”

The fans were everywhere even on a morning with hush because of the rain. As happens around Woods’s rounds, fans strategized about getting to opportune areas for viewing, including the deliberation about whether to try to climb certain trees. All around the thick intersection at Nos. 13, 14 and 15, the fans stood: in the tents and bourbon “speakeasy” around the No. 14 tee, and all the way up the hill beside the No. 14 green, up beyond a white picket fence alongside the course. When Scheffler’s approach at No. 16 went from 226 yards away in the left fairway to 11 feet upon the green, people cheered from up nearby in the veritable woods. He shot a 34 on his first nine, lowering his score from 4 under par to 6 under par, by then three shots off the lead.

“Scottie! Scottie!” the chants went sometimes, with an urgency rowdier than usual around Scheffler, even as the Texan and brand-new father has won 10 times on the PGA Tour since February 2022, including twice at the Players Championship and twice at the Masters.

“We’re all here enjoying ourselves, having some nice refreshments,” said John Glenwood of Louisville, standing beside the No. 17 fairway. “We’re about to see Scottie Scheffler walk up into the fairway. We’re standing here. We’re looking to have a little bit of an interaction with him. We’re here supporting Scottie. We are not here to do anything else. We are here to support him and everything. He is probably the most humble man on Tour, that I think the Tour has seen in a long time, and he has incredible morals.”

Nearby stood three men who declined to provide their names but who wore attire of some rapid production. Two wore the “Free Scottie” white T-shirts they said had sold in the parking lot for $20, and one wore an orange jumpsuit with the inmate number 3825869 on it. He said he had spotted the news early Friday morning and had phoned a party store, which had the suit available.

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