Scheffler cards 66 after jail stint on ‘chaotic’ day

Golf

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Sometime around 8 a.m. ET Friday, world No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler was sitting in a holding cell at the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections, watching himself being arrested on TV.

About two hours earlier, Scheffler had been handcuffed and detained for allegedly not following a police officer’s instructions while trying to drive into the entrance of Valhalla Golf Club, the site of this week’s PGA Championship.

“I was just so confused at what was happening at the time,” Scheffler said. “I didn’t know what time it was. I didn’t know what was going on. When I was sitting in the holding cell or whatever, there was a TV there and I could see myself on the TV, on ESPN.

“‘Get Up’ was on, so in the corner it showed the time and it said they were delayed, and I was kind of thinking about my tee time. I was like, ‘Well, maybe I could be able to get out.'”

Scheffler, who described the situation with the police officer as a “big misunderstanding” and a “chaotic situation,” wouldn’t comment on the specifics of what exactly happened.

“I came here for a golf tournament,” Scheffler said. “I was driving in this morning, trying to get to my warmup time and get ready for the round of golf. I didn’t really have an understanding of what had transpired this morning.”

The end of his strange and stressful day came around 3:30 p.m. ET, when Scheffler walked off the ninth hole, his 18th of the day, with playing partners Wyndham Clark and Brian Harman. Somehow, Scheffler posted a 5-under 66 for a 36-hole total of 9 under, which was good enough for a tie for second place, 2 shots behind then-clubhouse leader Collin Morikawa.

Only hours earlier, Scheffler wasn’t sure he would be released from jail to make his tee time, let alone stay in contention for his second straight victory in a major championship.

Traffic outside the golf course had been stopped after an employee of a vendor was struck and killed by a shuttle bus while crossing the road around 5 a.m. ET.

What happened next is in dispute. In a statement earlier Friday, Scheffler said “there was a big misunderstanding of what I thought I was being asked to do. I never intended to disregard any of the instructions.”

However, a Louisville Metro Police Department arrest report released Friday said Det. Bryan Gillis was dragged to the ground and suffered “pain, swelling and abrasions” to his left wrist and knee after Scheffler’s SUV accelerated.

Gillis was transported to a hospital by emergency medical personnel for evaluation. The report said his uniform pants were also damaged beyond repair.

Scheffler faces charges of second-degree assault of a police officer, third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding traffic signals from an officer directing traffic. The assault charge is a felony; the others are misdemeanors.

An arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET.

“That’ll get resolved, I think fairly quickly,” Scheffler said.

During his post-round news conference, Scheffler offered condolences to the family of John Mills, who was struck and killed by the bus.

“One day he’s heading to the golf course to watch a tournament,” Scheffler said. “A few moments later he’s trying to cross the street, and now he’s no longer with us. I can’t imagine what they’re going through. I feel for them. I’m sorry.”

Scheffler, 27, said he tried to defuse the situation once he was handcuffed and arrested.

“I was just sitting there in the back of the car, just listening to the police officer as he’s trying to figure out who I am, figure out my name,” Scheffler said. “They were trying to find me in the system, but there was something wrong with going across state lines with the Social Security number and stuff like that. All around, it was a very confusing and chaotic situation, but I did my best to just follow instructions and do as I was told as I was sitting there handcuffed.”

Scheffler said he never revealed his identity in an attempt to get out of the situation. He said he apologized to the officers and told them he was trying to get to his tee time.

“Outside of that, things escalated from there,” Scheffler said. “I [made] numerous apologies and whatever, but like I said, it was chaotic. It’s dark. It was raining. There’s a lot of stuff going on. They had just had an accident. I didn’t know what happened at the time, other than there was an accident. I didn’t know that it was fatal.”

PGA Tour players Min Woo Lee and Andrew Novak tweeted out #FreeScottie. And soon enough, fans on the grounds at Valhalla were wearing shirts printed with the “Free Scottie” saying. The reaction among Scheffler’s peers seemed unanimous: They were surprised to wake up and see what had happened.

“Turn on ESPN and seeing Scottie in handcuffs, getting in a police car, I never would have thought I would have seen that this morning,” Harris English said. “It was just wild … We had no idea what was going on. That could have been any one of us. We’re all taking that same route coming into the club.”

English was one of several players who had to make his way around the traffic delays on his way to the golf course. He described the morning as dark and rainy, with little visibility, but added that he had no problem getting into the course. Lee also said in his news conference that he took a similar route to the course as Scheffler in that he went around the traffic in order to make it inside the property. Like Scheffler did, several players described the scene as “chaotic.”

When Rickie Fowler heard the news about Scheffler, he thought it was fake.

“As we all know, Scottie isn’t exactly someone you’d expect to be getting in trouble with the law, and then I saw video and photo proof,” Fowler said. “Hopefully, everything can get sorted.”

Scheffler said he was in shock and “pretty rattled” after he was arrested, asking the police officer who drove him to the jail if they could sit in the car and speak so he could calm down.

“I was shaking the whole time,” Scheffler said. “I was shaking for like an hour.”

Once inside the jail, Scheffler said the process of getting him booked in the system took on a different tone. One of the police officers, once they figured out who he was, asked him if he wanted “the full experience” and offered him a sandwich to eat. Scheffler, who said he hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, took it.

Scheffler was then booked into the jail, his mugshot was snapped, and he was placed in what he described as a holding cell. Unsure if he would be released or able to make his tee time, Scheffler went into warmup mode.

“I did spend some time stretching in a jail cell,” Scheffler said. “That was a first for me. That was part of my warmup. I was just sitting there waiting and I started going through my warmup.”

Eventually, Scheffler explained, a police officer knocked on the window of his cell and told him it was time to go.

“I didn’t really feel like I would make my tee time until [then],” Scheffler said. “I didn’t really know what was going on out there.”

After being released, Scheffler said his manager asked if he still wanted to play, Scheffler did not hesitate.

“When they took me out and we got in the car on the way here, I figured I was ready to play,” Scheffler said. “My manager asked me if I wanted to, and I was like, of course.”

Scheffler was released from jail at 8:40 a.m. ET. He arrived at Valhalla at 9:12 a.m., less than an hour before his 10:08 tee time. He hugged his parents and went into the locker room to change.

After spending some time in the clubhouse, Scheffler made a beeline for the range, where he went through an abbreviated warmup session. With a throng of fans and reporters watching his every move, Scheffler appeared at ease, smiling even, as he talked with his caddie, Ted Scott, and swing coach, Randy Smith. He hit exactly one bunker shot and putted for a few minutes before heading to the 10th tee, where the gallery of fans immediately began chanting his name.

“Obviously I didn’t have my normal warmup and I usually stick to my routine,” Scheffler said. “I’m a big routine guy, especially when it comes to my preparation. But it took a few holes to settle in. It probably took a few holes to feel normal.”

Despite not being fully settled in, Scheffler birdied his first hole and, though he bogeyed the next one, he was able to card five more birdies.

“Obviously, I was rooting for Scottie,” Harman said. “I wasn’t shocked he was going to come out here and play. He’s a killer on the golf course. He can compartmentalize that stuff really well.”

Scheffler said he tried his best to remain calm throughout the round and focus on his game. He did admit that getting inside the ropes helped, as did the support from the fans.

“I was grateful to be able to go out there and compete, and yeah, it was definitely a nice round of golf,” Scheffler said. “I’ve kept myself in the tournament now with a pretty chaotic day.”

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