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

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The most shocking day in major-league golf history began with tragedy, as Scottie Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world, was arrested, booked into a local jail and released in time for the start of the match.

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

The fatal accident closed traffic in both directions outside Valhalla, which is hosting the major tournament for the first time in a decade. Scheffler arrived on the scene an hour later, amid steady rain and flashing police lights, seeking to enter the property and begin preparing for the 8:48 a.m. second round of the PGA Championship. The presence of police and security outside the routine of a major tournament is usual, even common. “I drive by cops like this maybe 10 times a year,” said one PGA Tour coach, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter.

What happened next was not common. When Scheffler, who was traveling eastbound, attempted to move his vehicle into the westbound lane, according to the Louisville Police Department arrest report, Detective Brian Gillis attempted to stop the vehicle. Scheffler continued forward, “pulling Detective Gillis to the ground,” and noted that he suffered injuries that required medical treatment, as well as irreparable damage to his $80 dress pants, the police report said. Jeff Darlington, the ESPN NFL reporter assigned to cover the second major golf tournament of the year, happened to be at the scene and watched it unfold, and reported that Schaeffler’s vehicle moved 10 to 20 yards before reaching the final stop.

Scheffler’s attorney, Steve Romines, said Scheffler was originally instructed to enter and that the officer directing traffic was not part of the traffic detail at the event. “This is where the misunderstanding arose and that’s why we’re here,” Romines said Friday morning.

Darlington reported that when Scheffler stopped, he lowered his window and the officer reached inside, grabbed Scheffler by the arm, and opened the door. The officer then handcuffed him and pushed him towards the car. As Scheffler was escorted toward a police car in the rainy darkness, a video shot by Darlington showed Scheffler turning to say, “Can you help?”

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

Scheffler was booked into 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 ignoring traffic signals from an officer directing traffic. The court hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

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After posing for selfies wearing an orange jumpsuit that quickly went viral on the Internet stretching out inside a prison cell while wondering if he would be released in time, Schaeffler was released at 8:40 a.m. and was snapped in a black SUV with the Valhalla team. . Owner Jimmy Kirchdorfer is in the passenger seat. He arrived on the course at 9:12 a.m., less than an hour before his 10:08 a.m. tee time, which was delayed along with the starts of the rest of the field due to the long backup caused by the collision.

Schaeffler went to the clubhouse, had a quick breakfast and went to the driving range with just over 30 minutes left for a short practice session.

All eyes were on Schaeffler’s team as they made their way across the practice area and over the player’s bridge that connects the green and field. The players turned their heads as the world No. 1 walked down the driving range and into an open bay in the middle of the hitting zone, while 30 members of the media followed as closely as allowed.

“you are good?” Rickie Fowler asked Schaeffler.

“It’s all good,” Scheffler replied.

The crowd of thousands stood in the rain and peeked their heads out from the corner hoping to see the No. 1 player in the world and the No. 1 topic of conversation in sports. Dozens of cameras are installed along each side of the 10th aisle, and all the reporters with credentials appear to be crammed inside the ropes. This was the kind of exhibition that only Tiger Woods saw in his prime.

Then the 6-foot-3 Scheffler made his way between the canvas-covered fences and emerged 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 most spectators agreed was dramatically louder than any first baseman they had ever heard.

“Scott-A! Scott-A! Scott-A!” she exclaimed.

One fan shouted: “Free Scotty!” 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 No. 1 position in golf. On Friday morning, the entire estate looked behind Schaeffler in a way it had never seen before, a surreal sight to honor Schaeffler so quickly after his arrest.

Scheffler enters the Valhalla Club after leaving Louisville Prison. (Ben Jared/PGA Tour via Getty Images)

As he hit his opening shot and walked down the first lane, Scheffler walked alongside playing partners Windham Clark and Brian Harman. He told them a lively story, telling clearly what had happened on Friday morning. Harman stared back with a look of shock. When Scheffler stuck his first approach to the hole to make an easy birdie, “The whole world’s on your side” could be heard, before another “Scotty!” The chant blared on his way to number 11.

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Schaeffler’s 5.5-hour tour went on like this, as a combination of intense support and youthful, quick-to-forget-a-man-death humor led to this moment. As he was approaching 15th place, one fan said: “What is this, a work release program?” Another said to the police officers: “What? Are you going to let him leave like this?” The officers laughed.

But the chants of “Free Scotty” were constant. On the 16th hole, a fan named Bob Parks proudly unbuttoned his jacket and parted it with his arms to make sure Scheffler and his teammates saw his white T-shirt that had “Free Scottie” written on it in black marker. Scheffler, who had kept his head focused all day, did not notice. A few yards away, another group of three displayed similar T-shirts. They said they grabbed markers to scribble on clothes as soon as they saw the news around 7:30 a.m. Other fans had T-shirts printed with Schaeffler’s image. Another man wearing an orange prison uniform said he stopped at Party City on the way.

Scheffler said after his tour that his body was shaking for an hour as he sat in the prison cell trying to lower his heart rate. He had no idea if he would be able to play, so he did as much of the stretching routine as he could in a cell knowing it would be a tough transition if he returned to the course. “It was my first time,” he joked. He said the officer who drove him to the station was nice and they had a good conversation, so as he sat waiting to get in, he asked, “Hey, excuse me, can you come hang out with me for a few minutes? Can I calm down?” Scheffler said he was never angry, just in shock. At one point, he looked out of his cell and saw himself being arrested on ESPN.

One of the older officers looked at Schaeffler and asked, “So do you want the full experience today?”

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

“Come on man, do you want a sandwich?” The officer said again. So Scheffler, who had not eaten, ate a sandwich.

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

Eventually, an officer knocked on his cell and said, “Let’s go.” Scheffler looked at the TV, saw the time and realized he might be able to make it if the traffic wasn’t so bad. He got into the car and his manager Blake Smith asked him if he still wanted to play. Of course, Scheffler said. He went out there and immediately heard the overwhelming support, saying he tried to stay focused but that support meant a lot to him.

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

As Scheffler was finishing the back nine, his guards were asked if they had been harassed all day.

“Oh yes,” said the officer. “I’ll tease us too.”

A group of players gathered in the Valhalla locker room and wondered what they should do. Will Zalatoris said there have been talks about going to the PGA of America and stopping the second round. A man has just died. The first competitor, the No. 1 player in the world, was arrested.

“It was weird,” Zalatoris said.

Even before Friday’s tragedy, Zalatoris thought the tournament was such a logistical mess that he asked his parents not to attend. “I’m not happy because I was proven right,” he said. He said it took him nearly an hour to get to the course every day despite being only a half-mile away, and on Friday it was so bad that he left his wife in the car and he, Cameron Young and Austin Eckrot walked the highway to get to the track. turn. When they got there, the tournament workers didn’t know who they were or whether they should be allowed in.

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

“It is unfortunate for the person who passed away earlier today,” Morikawa said. “I don’t think this is talked about enough, or at all.”

As Scheffler arrived at 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 could not comment on it but would deal with it. Instead, think of the Mills family.

“I can’t imagine what they’re going through this morning,” Scheffler said. “One day, he was heading to the golf course to watch a tournament. A few moments later he was trying 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.”

Now there are two days left until the PGA Championship and Schaeffler remains right in the mix for his second straight major win. His legal issues will be waiting for him once the tournament is over. He is scheduled to be arraigned at 9 a.m. Tuesday, according to online court records.

Scheffler tried to get back into his routine Friday afternoon, working out a little with plans to hit the gym afterward. He’ll calm down from the weird Friday morning and try to get back to normal for the rest of the weekend. No more lying in a prison cell.

(Photo: Michael Reeves/Getty Images)

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