Scottie Scheffler's Second-Round PGA Performance Was Legendary

Scheffler spent his morning in an orange jumpsuit and a jail cell, writes Pat Forde, but the No. 1 player in the world then went out and shot a 66 in circumstances we've never quite seen before.
Scottie Scheffler started his day with a stunning arrest and capped it with a five-under 66.
Scottie Scheffler started his day with a stunning arrest and capped it with a five-under 66. / Clare Grant/Courier Journal / USA TODAY

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Putting aside guilt or innocence until the court system can sort it out, let’s discuss the golf. Let’s talk about Scottie Scheffler’s jail-cell-to-66 odyssey at the PGA Championship Friday.

This might be the most remarkable golf performance since Tiger Woods won a 90-hole U.S. Open on a broken leg. The only thing that could have made it more impressive is if he were wearing a home incarceration ankle monitor.

The man was in an orange jumpsuit Friday morning. Fingerprinted. Doing his stretching routine behind bars in the Jefferson County Jail. Watching news of his arrest on a TV he could see from his cell. He described himself as shocked and rattled, as we certainly all would be.

“I was shaking,” Scheffler said. “I would say in shock and in fear.”

Then a few hours later he crafted a 5-under par round in the rain for a tie for third halfway through the tournament. The average human melts down in this situation; Scheffler rose up.

It is fair to wonder whether any of this should have happened after a strange and terrible morning. A PGA worker was struck and killed by a bus before dawn outside Valhalla. That was the most profound news of the day, and it was treated almost as an inconvenience that had to be worked around.

After the tragedy, Scheffler was caught up in an ensuing traffic jam as Louisville Metro Police investigated the scene. He allegedly tried to get around the cops and into the course, countermanding police instructions, then injuring officer Bryan Gillis after he ordered Scheffler to stop. He was arrested and charged with second-degree assault of an officer, a felony. It was a serious and somber situation. 

And yet the prevailing question was whether Scheffler would be released in time to play Friday at 10:08 a.m. The courts, cops and Valhalla leadership apparently fast-tracked Scheffler through the booking process and back to the course, a level of privilege not enjoyed by many who find themselves being cuffed and taken downtown. Perspective seemed lacking.

Scheffler did try to provide some of it. He began an extraordinary, 12-minute press conference by expressing sympathies to the family of Louisvillian John Mills, the worker at the PGA Championship who was struck and killed by a bus in the pre-dawn hours outside Valhalla Golf Club. 

“I can't imagine what they're going through this morning,” Scheffler said. “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.”

Scheffler mentioned the tragedy multiple times, as did other golfers. “I don’t think it’s being talked about enough—or at all,” said Collin Morikawa after his round of 65, the only one better than Scheffler’s at that point in the afternoon.

The expectation was that Scheffler would have little to say Friday—we’ve all heard public figures dodge questions in situations far more mundane than this. But while he did not discuss in detail the specifics of the incident with police—calling it a “big misunderstanding” several times — he shared an incredible amount about the situation.

“It was very chaotic, and I said, ‘I'm sorry, I'm just trying to get to my tee time,’“ Scheffler said of his encounter with Gillis. “Outside of that, things escalated from there. I did 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 it happened at the time, other than there was an accident. I didn't know that it was fatal.”

From there, Scheffler said he tried to “defuse the situation” while in the squad car, but did not attempt to name-drop his way out of trouble. He said the officer who took him to jail was “very kind.”

“He was great,” Scheffler said. “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.”

Now Scheffler has a jailhouse tale to tell, with a 66 postscript. He shot it in front of fans wearing “Free Scottie” shirts that appeared quickly Friday and will only proliferate through the weekend as the world’s No. 1 golfer chases a third major championship.

“I did spend some time stretching in a jail cell,” Scheffler said. “That was a first for me. It probably took a few holes to feel normal. 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.”

Truth be told, Scheffler birdied the first hole he played, after an abbreviated warmup. He was released on his own recognizance around 8:40 a.m., driven to the course at 9:12, teed off at 10:08 and was dropping a birdie putt shortly thereafter. Five more birdies followed, along with one bogey.

“As far as best rounds of my career, I would say it was pretty good,” he allowed. “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.”

Everyone can decide for themselves whether Scottie Scheffler being ROR’d on account of a tee time was something to cheer for or cringe at. But in terms of athletic performance, emerging from jail to light up a major championship was straight legendary.

Pat Forde


Pat Forde is a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, covering college football and basketball as well as the Olympics and horse racing. He co-hosts the College Football Enquirer podcast and is a football analyst on the Big Ten Network. He previously worked for Yahoo Sports, ESPN and The (Louisville) Courier-Journal. Pat has won a remarkable 28 Associated Press Sports Editors writing contest awards; been published three times in Best American Sports Writing; and was nominated for the 1990 Pulitzer Prize. A past president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and member of the Football Writers Association of America, Pat lives in Louisville with his wife. They have three children, all of whom were college swimmers.