Getting into Valhalla during the PGA isn't easy on a good day. Then came a perfectly imperfect storm

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Will Zalatoris urged his parents Richard and Catherine to stay home this weekend and not follow him around at the PGA Championship.

It's not worth the trouble, Zalatoris told them. The headaches involved in getting in and around Valhalla Golf Club were simply too great.

And then came Friday morning, when a pedestrian was struck and killed by a bus just outside the gates in the predawn hours. A short time later Scottie Scheffler, the world's top-ranked golfer, was getting led away in handcuffs following an incident with Louisville police.

“I hate that I was right earlier this week, but especially under these circumstances,” Zalatoris said. “It’s terrible.”

Zalatoris was in the middle of the 2 1/2-mile commute from the house he was renting for the week to the course when he received a text from his mother that seemed like a joke.

Scheffler, a two-time Masters' champion and Zalatoris' longtime friend, had been arrested by Louisville police and was heading to jail to face several charges, including second-degree assault of a police officer, after the car Scheffler was driving allegedly dragged an officer several feet.

It came as a shock. Yet the chaotic sequence also seemed symbolic of a sport dealing with unprecedented upheaval.

“The golf world is just getting weirder and weirder to put it mildly,” Zalatoris said.

Zalatoris and a handful of other players, including Cam Young and Austin Eckroat — all of whom were at a standstill while Louisville police investigated the scene of the accident — eventually got out of their cars and walked the rest of the way to the gates, where they had to educate security members that their “all access” player passes meant they were allowed in.

While Zalatoris stressed his thoughts were with the family of John Mills, who was working as a vendor on the course this week when he was struck and killed, Zalatoris also expressed frustration that some of the issues that have cropped up around Valhalla felt preventable.

If Zalatoris, who estimates he’s been to 10 PGA Championships, including three as a player, could see it coming, why couldn’t organizers?

“Needless to say I just think this is being not even controversial by saying it but I think this week logistically has not been the best in general,” he said.

When Zalatoris eventually reached the locker room, there was a discussion among a small group of players about potentially going to the PGA of America and asking them to push the start of the round to Saturday. Organizers did delay the start a little over two hours before going ahead with the second round as scheduled.

Scheffler included.

While some players expected the soft-spoken 27-year-old Texan to withdraw and head home to Dallas to be with his wife Meredith and their newborn son Bennett, Scheffler — who was released from jail after being detained for two hours and arrived at Valhalla just after 9 a.m. — appeared to find solace while putting together a dazzling 5-under 66 to move near the top of the leaderboard.

“With all that going on it was probably nice to just get out and to just go and do what he’s really good at,” said reigning British Open champion Brian Harman, who was paired with Scheffler and U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark over the first two rounds.

Still, the grounds had an almost surreal vibe, with some fans donning makeshift or hastily made “Free Scottie” T-shirts and the constant rain reflecting a gloom that never really seemed to lift despite the best efforts between the ropes by Scheffler, Zalatoris (4-under 67) and others.

“It was a weird morning,” said Eckroat after shooting a second straight 4-under 67. “Something I’ve never experienced."

The entire day seemed to highlight a disconnect between what was happening inside the sprawling property versus what was happening outside it.

The shortest commute Zalatoris faced before Friday was 50 minutes, a common thread for many trying to make their way to a course where the only point of entry is a four-lane road with plenty of stoplights in each direction.

While he pointed out he's “not a traffic cop,” Zalatoris believes “there's got to be an easier way to do this.”

The developments will likely do little to boost Valhalla's hopes of having a major PGA event return in the near future.

The course has produced a reputation for providing great finishes while serving as host to multiple PGAs and the 2008 Ryder Cup. Yet it's also telling that the location of eight of the next 10 PGAs are already spoken for and Valhalla isn't among them.

While Zalatoris praised the spectators and the course's ownership group, he thinks there is much work to be done before one of golf's four majors returns.

“There’s going to be a lot of questions and a lot of hard conversations that are going to be needed to be had going forward, what changes need to be made,” he said. "Because it’s a major championship venue, there’s no question about that. But this isn’t the first rodeo either.”

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