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Scottie Scheffler arrested outside PGA Championship, then returns and climbs leaderboard

May 17, 2024, 4:34 AM | Updated: 3:24 pm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Masters champion Scottie Scheffler was arrested Friday morning on his way to the PGA Championship, with stunning images showing him handcuffed as he was taken to jail for not following police orders during a pedestrian fatality investigation.

In a span of four hours, the top-ranked golfer in the world was arrested wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt, dressed in an orange jail shirt for his mug shot, stretched in a jail cell to stay loose and returned to Valhalla Golf Club dressed and ready for his 10:08 a.m. tee time.

Louisville Metro Police Department said Scheffler was booked on four charges, including second-degree assault of a police officer after his vehicle dragged an officer to the ground.

Scheffler said the incident was a “big misunderstanding amid a chaotic situation.”

“I feel like my head is still spinning. I can’t really explain what happened this morning,” Scheffler said after remarkably posting another 5-under 66 that kept him in the mix for a second straight major championship.

He said he could not offer specifics on the arrest because it was under investigation. In a statement released before his round, he said never intended to disregard police instructions outside the entrance to the club.

“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,” Scheffler said. “I was grateful to be able to go out there and compete and yeah, it was definitely a nice round of golf.”

His attorney, Steve Romines in Louisville, also described it as a misunderstanding and told The Associated Press, “We will litigate the case as it goes.”

Louisville mayor Craig Greenberg said tournament vendor John Mills was the pedestrian killed and offered sympathies to his family. Greenberg also said the incident involving Scheffler and LMPD was “unfortunate” and that the police department was investigating.

Traffic was backed up for about a mile in both directions on the only road that leads to Valhalla in the morning darkness with light rain, with dozens of police vehicles flashing red-and-blue lights near the entrance.

Police approached the long line of cars waiting to say a pedestrian had been struck by a bus while crossing the road in a lane that was dedicated to tournament traffic.

Mills, 69, was working for a PGA Championship vendor. He was pronounced dead at the scene about 5:09 a.m.

ESPN reporter Jeff Darlington witnessed the incident and said Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world who was to start the second round at 8:48 a.m., drove past a police officer a little after 6 a.m. in his SUV with markings on the door indicating it was a PGA Championship vehicle.

The officer screamed at him to stop and then grabbed onto the car until Scheffler stopped about 10 yards later, Darlington said. The officer, identified in the arrest report as Det. Gillis, was dragged “to the ground” and suffered “pain, swelling, and abrasions to his left wrist” after the car “accelerated forward,” according to Louisville police.

Scheffler was booked at 7:28 a.m. — about 2 1/2 hours before his updated tee time after the second round was delayed because of the fatality. In addition to the assault charge, he was booked on charges of third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding traffic signals from an officer directing traffic.

“The main thing is he was proceeding exactly as he was directed in a marked vehicle with credentials,” Romines said. “He didn’t do anything intentionally wrong.”

The officer was dressed in a high visibility reflective jacket when he stopped Scheffler’s car to give instructions, the arrest sheet said. Gillis was taken to the hospital for his injuries.

Darlington said police pulled Scheffler out of the car, pushed him up against the car and immediately placed him in handcuffs.

“Scheffler was then walked over to the police car, placed in the back, in handcuffs, very stunned about what was happening, looked toward me as he was in those handcuffs and said, ‘Please help me,’” Darlington said. “He very clearly did not know what was happening in the situation. It moved very quickly, very rapidly, very aggressively.”

Scheffler was released by police and returned to the course at 9:12 a.m. He made his way to the practice area around 9:30 a.m. and was welcomed by fans — one shouted “free Scottie!” and others arrived later wearing “Free Scottie” T-shirts.

Scheffler seemed like his normal, relaxed self, sharing a few laughs on the driving range.

“I was never angry. I was just in shock,” Scheffler said. “I was shaking the whole time. I was shaking for like an hour. It was definitely a new feeling for me.”

He could see from a TV in the jail that tee times were pushed back 1 hour, 20 minutes because of the traffic situation, and realized when an officer knocked on the door and said, “Let’s go,” that he had a chance to play.

He made birdie on his first hole of the day after sticking his approach shot to 3 feet.

Darlington, the ESPN reporter, said police were not sure who Scheffler was at first. He said an officer asked him to leave and when he identified himself being with the media, he was told, “There’s nothing you can do. He’s going to jail.”

Darlington said another police officer later approached with a notepad and asked if he knew the name of the person they put in handcuffs.

Scheffler said he never told police who he was except to say, “I’m sorry, I’m just trying to get to my tee time.”

Louisville police have attracted negative national attention in recent years after the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor in 2020 and a federal investigation into its policing practices.

A Department of Justice report released last year said Louisville officers use excessive force and conduct searches based on invalid warrants. The report said Black motorists in Louisville were more likely to be searched during traffic stops, and officers used neck restraints, police dogs and Tasers against people who posed no imminent threat.

Taylor, a 26-year-old Black woman, was shot by officers in who had come to her apartment with a warrant that federal officials later said was falsified.

PGA of America, which runs the PGA Championship, offered sympathies for Mills’ family and said in a statement, “As it relates to the incident involving Scottie Scheffler, we are fully cooperating as local authorities review what took place.”

Scheffler is coming off four victories in his last five tournaments, including his second Masters title. He was home in Dallas the last three weeks waiting on the birth of his first child, a son that was born May 8.

Scheffler is trying to become only the fifth player since 1960 to win the first two majors of the year.

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Associated Press writer Dylan Lovan contributed.

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AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf

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Scottie Scheffler arrested outside PGA Championship, then returns and climbs leaderboard