Scottie Scheffler warmed up in jail cell ahead of 5-under round at PGA Championship

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Of all the people who have done time in jail cells all throughout human history, Scottie Scheffler is almost certainly the first to spend lonely, nervous minutes stretching in one to prepare for his tee time in one of golf’s most prestigious tournaments.

A few miles away, at Valhalla Golf Club, his fellow players were getting loose, taking their first swings on the practice range, preparing for the second round of the PGA Championship. Fans were filing into Valhalla and beginning to line its fairways. Rain was soaking the grounds. And here was Scheffler, in a Louisville jail cell, beginning to go through his routine and wondering how in heaven he’d ended up behind bars so quickly.

This is the story of a remarkable day, one that started with Scheffler behind bars and ended with him tied for fourth in the PGA Championship, just three shots behind leader Xander Schauffele.

The rain started falling on Louisville shortly after midnight, soaking Valhalla and the surrounding streets. Shelbyville Road, the five-lane route that runs past Valhalla, is a dangerous highway even in good circumstances; there are no sidewalks, and traffic hits high speeds in the small valley where Valhalla’s grand front entrance sits. There’s always the potential for trouble when you combine massive traffic and huge, unwieldy shuttle buses in a tight little mixing bowl like that, and early Friday morning, tragedy struck.

John Mills, a security guard, died when hit by a shuttle bus shortly after 5 a.m., about 90 minutes before sunrise. The terrible news shut down Shelbyville Road around the clubhouse, and soon afterward, the PGA of America began contacting players by text and phone to inform them of the situation. Some were still in their rental homes, some were already en route.

Rickie Fowler, who teed off in the grouping just ahead of Scheffler’s, recalled getting a text shortly after 5:30 a.m. telling him to avoid approaching the club from the east because of the accident.

“Once we got on the main road, obviously we weren’t moving, but then news started to come out what was going on,” Fowler told Yahoo Sports on Friday afternoon. “I don’t think it really mattered which way you tried to come in, because you couldn’t get in.”

Some players opted to ride the traffic out; others, like Will Zalatoris and Austin Eckroat, actually walked more than a mile to get to the course. Police officers wearing yellow rain gear directed traffic on Shelbyville Road, and multiple players reported a chaotic scene around the entrance to the club.

“Definitely a little bit more hectic than we're used to getting into the golf course,” Harris English said. “Obviously this morning, dark, raining, it's hard to see anyway, and you've got a lot of lights around, you've got a lot of people yelling and pointing and all this stuff. It was very chaotic coming into the course.”

Shortly after 6 a.m., Scheffler approached the course’s front gates. He was driving a white Lexus, a courtesy car given to all the players, emblazoned with the tournament’s logo. Min Woo Lee, who teed off about 40 minutes before Scheffler, indicated after his round that he and several others went around traffic to get into the club; players were permitted to access the course at that time.

Scheffler attempted to drive into the club, and was stopped by an officer. At that point, the stories on what happened next diverged, and didn’t reconnect until Scheffler was in handcuffs. According to the police report, a police officer stopped Scheffler and “attempted to give instructions.” At that point, according to police, Scheffler “refused to comply and accelerated forward, dragging [the officer] to the ground.” The officer “suffered pain, swelling, and abrasions to his left wrist and knee. He was transported to the hospital for further medical treatment by emergency medical personnel.” (The report further noted that the officer’s “uniform pants, valued at approximately $80 were damaged beyond repair.")

Scheffler’s attorney, Steve Romines, disputed that account in a statement, saying Scheffler was “simply proceeding as directed. He stopped immediately upon being directed to and never at any point assaulted any officer with his vehicle.”

“I was proceeding as directed by police officers,” Scheffler said in a statement released by his team. “It was a very chaotic situation, understandably so considering the tragic accident that had occurred earlier, and there was a big misunderstanding of what I thought I was being asked to do. I never intended to disregard any of the instructions.”

What happened next isn’t in dispute. Scheffler was hauled out of his car. “I'm sorry,” he said, “I'm just trying to get to my tee time.” He didn’t play the do-you-know-who-I-am game, he didn’t drop the name “Scottie Scheffler.” (Not that it would have mattered; ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, who broke the story, reported that a police officer later came up to him and asked who Scheffler was.)

So Scheffler was cuffed, hands behind his back — the cuffs were later released and re-cuffed in front of his back — and he left the course in handcuffs for what actually turned out to be a pleasant ride … or at least as pleasant as a ride can be when one is facing a felony charge. The officer who transported Scheffler to processing helped calm him down, and even sat with Scheffler during the booking process. Scheffler spent the next hour shivering in disbelief at what had suddenly happened.

At the jail, Scheffler was charged with four counts, including second-degree assault on a police officer, a felony. He was fingerprinted and photographed in a blaze-orange shirt. The look of exhausted disbelief is evident on his face, as if he’s thinking he’s in a dream that will end sometime soon and he’ll wake up ready to play Round 2 of the PGA.

In this mug shot provided by the Louisville Metropolitan Department of Corrections Friday, May 17, 2024, Scott Scheffler is shown. Masters champion Scottie Scheffler was detained by police Friday morning on his way to the PGA Championship, with stunning images showing him handcuffed as he was led to a police car. (Louisville Metropolitan Department of Corrections via AP)
Scottie Scheffler was detained by police Friday morning on his way to the PGA Championship. (Louisville Metropolitan Department of Corrections via AP)

During the course of the booking, one officer offered Scheffler “the full experience.” Scheffler, unfamiliar with what “the full experience” might entail, didn’t know how to answer that question.

“Come on, man,” the officer said. “You want a sandwich?”

“Sure,” Scheffler responded, realizing he hadn’t yet had breakfast, “I’ll take a sandwich.”

Another experience most inmates in prison likely don’t have is hearing about their arrest, unfolding live on television, while they’re behind bars. A television in the jail was playing ESPN’s “Get Up,” and Scheffler could hear them discussing the particulars of whether he’d make his tee time. Although he didn’t have a watch or a phone on him, Scheffler did some math and realized that maybe, just maybe, he could make his tee time after all.

At that point, Scheffler calmed himself and began to stretch, going through his normal pre-round warmup routine in a most abnormal location. And soon enough, an officer came by his holding cell and said, “Let’s go.” (The question of how Scheffler was able to get released from jail so soon after being charged with a Class 2 felony is one worth asking later.)

“The officers at the jail were tremendous,” Scheffler said. “I'm very grateful for the people that serve all of us across the nation.”

Once again wearing the light blue golf shirt and black shorts he’d had on while being arrested, Scheffler met his manager and two representatives of Valhalla outside the jail. They took him to the course, and shortly after 9 a.m., a black Land Rover carrying Scheffler pulled up at the clubhouse’s front door. Scheffler changed into a white pullover and navy slacks, fist-bumped Fowler on the way to the range, and began warming up for what must rank as the strangest round of his life.

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY - MAY 17: Scottie Scheffler of the United States shakes hands with fans wearing Scottie Scheffler t-shirts as he walks off the ninth green during the second round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 17, 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Scottie Scheffler slaps hands with fans wearing Scottie Scheffler t-shirts as he walks off the ninth green during the second round of the 2024 PGA Championship. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Out on the course, word had spread of Scheffler’s situation, and so too had the entrepreneurs. Fans wearing “Free Scottie” t-shirts were all over the course, some featuring his mug shot. Scheffler has drawn grief and criticism for being “boring” and not connecting with galleries, but on Friday, he received some of the loudest, most encouraging cheers of his career. It would be a strange irony indeed if Scheffler — devoted, devout family man; proud new father — ended up more popular than ever because of a 90-minute stint in jail.

Playing with defending U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark and defending Open champion Brian Harman, Scheffler exchanged quick pleasantries and focused entirely on his own game — his notes, his ball, his tee, his glove. The gallery around him chanted his name — “SCOT-TIE! SCOT-TIE!” — but he stayed locked in the moment. It was only afterward that he let the mask slip a bit.

“The fans were tremendous today. I felt like they were cheering extra loud for me today,” he said. “I know sometimes you can't really see it on my face, but I really do enjoy playing in front of the fans.”

“I think the golf course probably was almost a solace for him, you know,” Harman told Yahoo Sports after the round. “With all that going on, it was probably nice to get out and to just go and do what he's really good at.”

“It probably took a few holes to feel normal,” Scheffler said. “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.”

Over the course of the afternoon, Scheffler carded six birdies — including one on the very first hole he played — against one bogey to finish the day at -9 for the tournament. Scheffler ended his round two strokes behind clubhouse leader Collin Morikawa — Xander Schauffele is currently at 12-under — and is now in position to challenge for his third major.

After the round, Scheffler took time to pose for selfies and sign autographs, and then he sat for a remarkably candid press conference, all things considered.

“I definitely never imagined ever going to jail,” Scheffler said, “and I definitely never imagined going to jail the morning before one of my tee times, for sure.”

Harman declined to say what Scheffler said during the round, but offered a prediction.

“Scottie,” he said, “is going to be fine.”