Inside the most bizarre day in major golf with the arrest of Scottie Scheffler

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The most shocking day in major championship golf history began with tragedy and saw Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 men’s player in the world, arrested, booked into a local jail and released in time to take the start.

It was just after 5 a.m. on a rainy Friday morning that police were called to the street outside Valhalla Golf Club. A shuttle bus traveling on Shelbyville Road struck and killed John Mills, a local man who worked the PGA Championship for a tournament supplier.

The fatal crash caused traffic to stop in both directions outside Valhalla, which is hosting the major championship for the first time in a decade. Scheffler arrived on scene an hour later, amid steady rain and flashing police lights, seeking to enter the property and begin preparation for an 8:48 a.m. start for the second round of the championship the PGA. A police and security presence outside of a major championship routine is typical, if not common. “I come across cops like that probably 10 times a year,” said one PGA Tour swing coach, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter.

What happened next was anything but common. When Scheffler, heading east, attempted to move his vehicle into the westbound lane, according to the Louisville Police Department arrest report, Detective Bryan Gillis attempted to stop the vehicle. The police report states that Scheffler continued to advance, “dragging Detective Gillis to the ground”, and noted that he suffered injuries requiring medical attention, as well as irreparable damage to his uniform pants at 80 $. Jeff Darlington, an ESPN NFL reporter covering the second major golf tournament of the year, was at the scene and watched the proceedings, reporting that Scheffler’s vehicle moved 10 to 20 yards before crashing. stop permanently.

Scheffler’s attorney, Steve Romines, said Scheffler was initially ordered to enter and the officer directing traffic was not part of the event’s traffic details. “So that’s where the miscommunication came about and that’s why we’re here,” Romines said Friday morning.

When Scheffler stopped, he rolled down his window and the officer grabbed Scheffler’s arm and opened the door, Darlington reported. The officer then handcuffed Scheffler and pushed him against the car. As Scheffler was escorted to a police car in the rainy darkness, video taken by Darlington showed Scheffler turning to say, “Can you help me?”

“You need to get out of the way,” another officer told Darlington. “Right now he’s going to jail and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Scheffler was arrested at the Louisville Department of Corrections at 7:28 a.m. and faces charges of second-degree assault on a police officer, third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and failure to obey traffic signals. the part of an officer directing traffic. A court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

After taking photos in an orange jumpsuit that were quickly posted online and stretching in a jail cell as he wondered if he would be released in time, Scheffler was released at 8:40 a.m. and was picked up in a black SUV with Valhalla co-owner Jimmy Kirchdorfer in the passenger seat. He arrived on the course at 9:12 a.m., less than an hour before his 10:08 a.m. start time, which had been delayed along with the starts of the rest of the peloton due to the long wait caused by the accident.

Scheffler entered the clubhouse, ate a quick breakfast and headed to the driving range with just over 30 minutes to spare for a shortened practice session.

All eyes were on Scheffler’s team as they walked through the practice area and across the players’ bridge that connects the green and the range. Players turned their heads as the world No. 1 walked down the driving range to an open bay in the middle of the hitting zone, while 30 members of the media followed him as closely as possible.

“How are you?” » Rickie Fowler asked Scheffler.

“Everything is fine,” Scheffler replied.

Thousands of people stood in the rain and peered around street corners hoping to see the world’s No. 1 player and the No. 1 talking point in sports. Dozens of cameras were set up on either side of the 10th fairway, and seemingly every credentialed reporter crowded the ropes. It was the kind of gallery only Tiger Woods had seen in his prime.

Then the 6-foot-3 Scheffler weaved his way between the tarp fences and appeared under a large umbrella wearing a white zipper and blue pants. Before the starter could announce Scheffler’s name, the Louisville crowd unleashed a roar that, in most spectators’ opinions, was exponentially louder than any first start they had ever heard.

“Scott-that is!” Scott-ie! Scott-ie! » they chanted.

One fan shouted: “Free Scottie!” Another said: “You look great in orange!” » One of them said, “One of us! In recent weeks, articles have been written about Scheffler’s lack of charisma to match his first-place finish in golf. By Friday morning, the entire property seemed behind Scheffler like no gallery had ever been before, a surreal scene of Scheffler’s lionization so quickly after his arrest.

Scheffler enters the Valhalla clubhouse after leaving a Louisville prison. (Ben Jared/PGA Tour via Getty Images)

As he hit his first tee shot and walked down the first fairway, Scheffler walked alongside playing partners Wyndham Clark and Brian Harman. He animatedly told them a story, clearly recounting what had happened Friday morning. Harman stared back with a look of shock. As Scheffler fired his first approach shot just steps from the hole for an easy birdie, “The whole world is on your side” could be heard before another “Scottie!” a chant broke out as he headed towards No. 11.

Scheffler’s 5.5 hour tour continued like this, a mix of extreme support and youthful humor quick to forget a man’s death led to this moment. As he started the No. 15, a fan said, “What is this, a work release program?” » Another said to security guards: “What? Are you just going to let him go like that? The officers laughed.

But the “Free Scottie” chants were constant. On the 16th hole, a fan named Bob Parks proudly unzipped his jacket and held it apart with his arms to make sure Scheffler and company saw his white T-shirt with “FREE SCOTTIE” written in black marker. Scheffler, with his head down all day, didn’t notice it. A few meters away, another group of three people sported similar shirts. They said they took markers to scribble on the clothes as soon as they saw the news around 7:30 a.m. Other fans printed shirts with Scheffler’s photo. Another man dressed in an orange prison jumpsuit said he stopped at a party town on the way.

Scheffler said after his round that his body shook for an hour while he sat in a jail cell to try to lower his heart rate. He didn’t know if he would be able to play, so he did as many stretches as possible in a cell, knowing it would be a tight turnaround if he returned to class. “That was a first for me,” he joked. He said the officer who drove him to the station was nice and they had a good conversation, so as he waited to go in, he asked, “Hey, excuse me, can you just come hang out with me for a few minutes so I can calm down? Scheffler said he was never angry, just shocked. At one point, he looked up from his cell and saw himself on ESPN.

An older officer looked at Scheffler and asked, “So, do you want to get the full experience today?”

Scheffler looked at the officer confused, saying he didn’t know how to answer that question.

“Come on man, do you want a sandwich?” replied the officer. Then Scheffler, who hadn’t eaten, had a sandwich.

Some fans went so far as to quickly print T-shirts in support of Scottie Scheffler. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Finally, a police officer knocked on his cell phone and said, “Let’s go.” Scheffler looked at TV, saw the time and realized he might be able to make it if the traffic wasn’t bad. He got in the car and his manager, Blake Smith, asked him if he still wanted to play. Scheffler said of course. He came out and immediately heard the overwhelming support, saying he was trying to stay focused but that support meant so much to him.

Despite all the chaos surrounding the wild day, Scheffler shot a 66 to enter the clubhouse just two behind the leaders. It was a better round than the one he played on Thursday.

And as Scheffler completed the back nine, his security detail was asked if they had been heckled all day.

“Oh yeah,” the officer said. “I’ll heckle us too.”

A group of players in the Valhalla locker room got together and wondered what to do. Will Zalatoris said there were discussions about going to the PGA of America and stopping the second round. A man had just died. And the main contender, the world No. 1 player, had been arrested.

“It was just weird,” Zalatoris said.

Even before Friday’s tragedy, Zalatoris thought the tournament was such a logistical mess that he told his parents not to come. “I’m not happy that I was right,” he said. He said it took him nearly an hour to get to the course each day, even though it was only a half-mile away, and on Friday it was so bad he left his wife in the car and he, Cameron Young and Austin Eckroat walked the highway to reach the course. When they arrived there, tournament organizers did not know who they were or whether they should be allowed entry.

Two-time major champion Collin Morikawa, like Zalatoris and so many others, wanted to pause the conversation and remind everyone of the worst thing that happened on Friday.

“It’s unfortunate for the person who died earlier today,” Morikawa said. “I don’t think it’s talked about enough, if at all.”

And as Scheffler headed into his packed news conference Friday afternoon, he took a deep breath and started talking about John Mills. He downplayed the interaction that led to his arrest, saying he couldn’t comment on it but it would be worked out. Instead, he reflected on Mills’ family.

“I can’t imagine what they’re going through this morning,” Scheffler said. “One day he goes to the golf course to watch a tournament. Moments later he tries to cross the street and now he is no longer with us. I can’t imagine what they are going through. My heart – I feel for them. I’m sorry.”

There are only two days left in the PGA Championship and Scheffler remains in the hunt for a second consecutive major victory. His legal problems will await him once the tournament is over. His arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday, according to online court records.

Scheffler tried to get back into his routine Friday afternoon, working out a bit with plans to hit the gym afterward. His goal will be to calm down after his strange Friday morning and try to get back to normal for the rest of the weekend. No more stretching in a prison cell.

(Photo: Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

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