Scottie Scheffler Opens Up on 'Chaotic' Morning at PGA Including Arrest, Round of 66

The world No. 1 declined to go into specifics about his arrest Friday outside the entrance to Valhalla Golf Club but expressed sympathy for John Mills's family and complimented police officers.
Scottie Scheffler teed off Friday at the PGA Championship less than one hour after being released from jail.
Scottie Scheffler teed off Friday at the PGA Championship less than one hour after being released from jail. / Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Scottie Scheffler showed amazing amount of poise and perspective on Friday afternoon. And that was after he got off the golf course.

Scheffler, the No. 1-ranked player in the world who was arrested earlier in the day after he allegedly ran afoul of police instructions in a chaotic scene caused by the death of a pedestrian outside of Valhalla Golf Club, somewhat amazingly agreed to talk about it.

He arrived at Valhalla less than one hour prior to his 10:08 a.m. tee time after spending approximately 60 minutes at the Jefferson County Jail, having been arrested on several charges, including a felony, and then being released on his own recognizance.

The reigning Masters champion, who players such as Rickie Fowler and Brian Harman insisted would never run afoul of law enforcement, managed to stretch while he was in his jail cell, hit a few balls to warm up in the rain, and birdied his first hole.

He shot 5-under-par 66 to finish his round two shots behind Friday's early leader, Collin Morikawa.

And then he came before the assembled media, who wondered if he’d even be allowed to discuss what occurred, and opened with a message to the family of the victim of the early-morning bus accident.

“First of all, my sympathies go out to the family of Mr. (John) Mills,” Scheffler said of the worker who was attempting to cross the busy road prior to 6 a.m. when he was struck by a shuttle bus on the way to the course. “I can't imagine what they're going through this morning.

“One day he's heading to the golf course to watch a tournament. 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. My heart—I feel for them. I'm sorry.

“My situation will get handled. It was a chaotic situation and a big misunderstanding. I can't comment on any of the specifics of it, so I feel like y'all are going to be disappointed, but I can't comment on any specifics, but my situation will be handled.

“It was just a big misunderstanding. If you've got any questions about the golf today, I'm happy to answer that, but outside of that, I can't get into what transpired, outside of my heart goes out to the family.”

But Scheffler did talk about some of it. About the surreal circumstances. About talking to officers while sitting in a police car after being handcuffed. About seeing himself on TV from the jail cell. About even attempting to play golf.

“I feel like my head is still spinning,” Scheffler said. “I can't really explain what happened this morning. I did spend some time stretching in a jail cell. 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, I felt like there was a chance I may be able to still come out here and play. I started going through my routine and I tried to get my heart rate down as much as I could today, but like I said, I still feel like my head is spinning a little bit. But I was fortunate to be able to make it back out and play some golf today.”

Scheffler finished his first round on Thursday after 7 p.m. and had a quick turnaround before the second round of the PGA Championship. He spent some time on the putting green as it was getting dark and then arrived early to get in a workout in the tournament fitness trailer.

His original tee time was scheduled for 8:48 a.m., so Scheffler was well in advance of that but as he was driving to the course amid traffic, he was unaware of what had transpired just down the road.

While traffic was snarled on Shelbyville Road outside the course, a lane of traffic was open to approved vehicles, including buses, shuttles and player transportation.

Scheffler was driving a tournament courtesy car that should have had a player “P” in the windshield that was visible to law enforcement. Several other players said they were able to drive right in without issues. Some, unsure if they’d ever get close to the course, ditched cars and began walking, including Austin Eckroat, who said he walked more than a mile and a half.

Fowler said he was stuck in traffic for more than an hour but by that point had been alerted to the fact that tee times had been delayed indefinitely.

Scheffler’s statement and the official police report differ. He was charged with second-degree assault of a police officer, which is a felony. He was also charged with third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding traffic signals from an officer directing traffic.

The police said that Scheffler dragged a police officer, who suffered injuries.

Scheffler in his statement described it as “a big misunderstanding of what I thought I was being asked to do. I never intended to disregard any of the instructions.”

In his news conference, 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.

“My main focus after getting arrested was wondering if I could be able to come back out here and play, and fortunately I was able to do that.”

After starting his round on the 10th hole, Scheffler immediately made a birdie and added five more against just one bogey. He continued a streak of 42 consecutive rounds at par or better on the PGA Tour.

“Scottie’s not one to get in trouble,” said Harman, who played the first two rounds with Scheffler. “I was so focused on what I had going on. I was rooting for Scottie. It’s hard to actually not pay attention to it. I wasn’t shocked that he was going to come out and play. He’s a killer on a golf course. He can compartmentalize that stuff really well.”

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

“It was kind of nice just to be out there inside the ropes competing. It's one of my favorite things in the world to do, so I was fortunate to be able to come out here and do it again today.”

It wasn’t easy, however.

Scheffler said the entire episode was extremely unnerving. He was unaware of any protocol, of what to say or do while in the police vehicle or at the jail.

“I was pretty rattled to say the least. The officer that took me to the jail was very kind. He was great. We had a nice chat in the car, that kind of helped calm me down. I was sitting there waiting to kind of go in and I asked him, I was like, ‘hey, excuse me, can you just come hang out with me for a few minutes so I can calm down.’ I was never angry. I was just in shock, and I think my body was just—I was shaking the whole time. I was shaking for like an hour. It was definitely a new feeling for me. He came out and we had a nice chat and then the officers inside the jail were tremendous. A couple of them made some jokes I think when they figured out who I was and what happened and how I ended up there.

“This one older officer looked at me as I was doing my fingerprints or whatever, and he looks at me and he goes, ‘so do you want the full experience today?’ I kind of looked at him, and I was like, I don't know how to answer that. He's like, ‘Come on, man, you want a sandwich?’ I was like, sure, I'll take a sandwich. I hadn't eaten breakfast yet. I mean, they were really kind. I'm grateful that we have such strong police, and they're our protectors out there, and like I said, we just got into a chaotic situation this morning. That's really all it was.”

Scheffler said he was unaware of exactly how long he was at the jail but was informed he’d be getting out and it seemed possible he’d make it to the course in time.

There was conjecture about the PGA of America and what it might or could do in case he were late, as under extraordinary circumstances, disqualification rules for being more than five minutes late can be waived. It didn’t come to that.

“Like I said, the officers at the jail were tremendous. I'm very grateful for the people that serve all of us across the nation,” Scheffler said. “As far as best rounds of my career, I would say it was pretty good. I definitely never imagined ever going to jail, and I definitely never imagined going to jail the morning before one of my tee times for sure.

“But I was grateful to be able to go out there and compete, and yeah, it was definitely a nice round of golf. My heart goes out to the family. Outside of that, I’m glad to be out here competing, doing what I love.”

 


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Bob Harig

BOB HARIG

Bob Harig is a senior golf writer for Sports Illustrated. He has more than 25 years experience covering golf, including 15 at ESPN. Bob is a regular guest on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio and has written two books, DRIVE: The Lasting Legacy of Tiger Woods and Tiger and Phil: Golf's Most Fascinating Rivalry. He graduated from Indiana University where he earned an Evans Scholarship, named in honor of the great amateur golfer Charles (Chick) Evans Jr. Bob, a former president of the Golf Writers Association of America, lives in Clearwater, Florida.