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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Scottie Scheffler ends a chaotic day near the top of the PGA leader board

By Rick Maese, Chuck Culpepper and Scott Allen Washington Post

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Scottie Scheffler, the world’s top-ranked golfer, was handcuffed and arrested by Louisville police Friday morning for a traffic-related incident as he was attempting to enter Valhalla Golf Club for the second round of the PGA Championship.

After a whirlwind morning that saw Scheffler booked in jail, issued an orange jumpsuit and charged with second-degree felony assault of a police officer, he was released on his own recognizance and returned to the course in time to continue play. He hit balls for about 20 minutes on the practice range before moving to the 10th tee box, where he pulled a driver from his bag to resume his pursuit of a second straight major championship. Scheffler finished the second round 5 under par for the day and 9 under for the tournament, tied for fourth place.

Xander Schauffele held his lead with a 3-under 68. He’s 12 under and one shot ahead of Collin Morikawa, who was one of Friday’s biggest movers at 6 under.

Tournament officials delayed the start of Friday’s round by an 1 hour, 20 minutes, as Scheffler’s playing status was initially unclear. He was booked in jail at 7:28 a.m. Eastern time, and at 9:12 a.m., ESPN cameras showed Scheffler at Valhalla, emerging from a black SUV and walking into the club without addressing the arrest. He later issued a statement calling the incident “a big misunderstanding.”

Traffic entering the golf club Friday morning was backed up because of an overnight fatal traffic accident involving a worker for a tournament vendor, later identified as John Mills. Scheffler attempted to navigate around traffic and bypass a heavy police presence to reach the course, according to an ESPN report. ESPN aired video of Scheffler wearing handcuffs and being escorted by two officers to a police cruiser.

“Right now he’s going to jail,” an officer told ESPN reporter Jeff Darlington on the scene.

Scheffler opened his post-round news conference by expressing sympathy for Mills’s family, and echoed a statement he issued earlier in the day about his incident with police.

“I can’t imagine what they were going through this morning,” he said. ” … 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.”

The Louisville Metro Police Department issued a “preliminary statement” to The Washington Post on Friday afternoon, in which a department spokesman said LMPD was “still in the process of gathering information and investigating what transpired” Friday morning, and expressed condolences to the family of the victim of the fatal accident. The spokesman said all lanes were closed and police were directing traffic around the scene of the accident, which occurred shortly after 5 a.m. in front of Gate 2 at Valhalla.

“While an officer was directing traffic, an encounter with a motorist attempting to make entry into a restricted area ultimately led to the driver being arrested,” the statement said.

Scheffler said he did some stretching in a jail cell while awaiting word on whether he could play.

“That was a first for me,” he said.

After his return to the course, there was a hush in the air at the 10th tee, with rain clouds overhead and droplets still falling after heavier rain earlier. The tee announcer’s call of the names of the first two players, Wyndham Clark and Brian Harman, drew polite applause. “And next to play, from Texas, Scottie Scheffler!” the next announcement went, drawing a quick swell of a cheer. As Scheffler, in a white sweater and white cap, made his way up the fairway, a spectator yelled, “Scottie! I need your lawyer’s number!” That lawyer, Steve Romines, is a well-known figure around Louisville.

Shortly before his round began, Scheffler issued a statement saying he had been proceeding toward the course Friday morning “as directed by police officers.”

“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,” he said. “I never intended to disregard any of the instructions. I’m hopeful to put this to the side and focus on golf today.”

Scheffler’s original tee time was 8:48 a.m. Eastern time and was pushed back to 10:08 a.m. The second round of the PGA Championship, one of the sport’s four major tournaments, began at 8:35 a.m. Barely 30 minutes before his round, Scheffler – a 27-year-old Texan playing in his first tournament since the birth of his first child on May 8 – arrived on the Valhalla driving range to a smattering of cheers.

Romines, the attorney, spoke briefly with a small group of reporters Friday morning in Louisville and said there had been a “miscommunication” that led to Scheffler’s arrest. He said police had changed traffic patterns heading into the club, and that Scheffler “was unaware of that.”

Romines said Scheffler did not disobey police and “did exactly what he was instructed to do to enter the premises.”

“We’ll just litigate the case as it comes,” he said. “Scottie will cooperate fully and we’ll just deal with it as it progresses.”

An arraignment is scheduled for 9 a.m. Tuesday in Jefferson County District Court in Louisville.

In addition to the charge of assaulting an officer, Scheffler also faces charges of criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding traffic signals from an officer, according to Louisville police. A mug shot posted online Friday morning depicted an unsmiling Scheffler wearing a jail-issued orange jumpsuit.

The incident started with a traffic accident around 5 a.m. In a statement, police said they responded to a call of a vehicle collision involving a pedestrian and a bus.

“Our preliminary investigation found that an adult male pedestrian was crossing Shelbyville Road south to north when he was struck by a shuttle bus that was traveling eastbound in the compulsory center lane dedicated for buses,” the statement said.

The pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene.

In his morning statement, Scheffler said that “all of us involved in the tournament express our deepest sympathies to the family of the man who passed away in the earlier accident this morning. It truly puts everything in perspective.”

In a statement, the PGA of America said: “Our primary concern today remains with the family of John Mills, who lost his life in a tragic accident early this morning while reporting to work. As it relates to the incident involving Scottie Scheffler, we are fully cooperating as local authorities review what took place. While the legal process plays out, questions should to be directed to Scheffler’s attorney or local authorities.”

Scheffler’s agent did not respond to a request for comment.

Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg offered condolences to Mills’s family and called the incident involving Scheffler “unfortunate.” In a statement, Greenberg said the Louisville Metro Police Department “is fully investigating this incident and the legal process will proceed.”

The accident caused a backup entering the course. Darlington reported that Scheffler drove past a police officer who had asked the golfer to stop. An officer attached himself to the side of Scheffler’s car, according to ESPN’s report. After Scheffler stopped, an officer banged a flashlight on the car, Darlington reported, before pulling Scheffler out of the vehicle, putting him against the side of the car and placing him in handcuffs.

Police apparently did not initially know whom they had detained. ESPN’s Darlington said officers later approached him, notepad in hand, asking for the name of the man they’d just handcuffed.

Barely an hour after he was booked, Scheffler was released from jail at 8:40 a.m., just as tournament play was beginning at Valhalla. He shed the jail garb and arrived at the course less than an hour before he was expected on the 10th tee box for the start of his round. He began play in a light rain, again sporting the clothes he’d been wearing when police arrested him.

Scheffler won the most recent major, the Masters, in April. That was part of a run in which he won four out of five tournaments he entered, tying for second in the only event he didn’t win.

He entered the PGA Championship as the betting favorite, and he opened the tournament with a 4-under 67 on Thursday, leaving him tied for 12th and five shots behind first-round leader Schauffele.