Scottie Scheffler warmed up in a jail cell. Then he moved up the PGA Championship leaderboard

The world’s top golfer was being booked and fingerprinted before the second round of the PGA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky, when a police officer asked an unusual question: “So do you want the full experience today?”

“I don’t know how to answer that,” Scottie Scheffler told one of several officers who had now started to razz the Masters champion arrested early Friday in the alleged assault of another officer in a traffic incident outside the Valhalla Golf Club.

“Come on, man, you want a sandwich?” the officer at the jail asked during a light moment on a day that started with tragedy.

“Sure, I’ll take a sandwich,” Scheffler, who had yet to have breakfast, recalled saying.

Under “place of employment/occupation,” the Louisville Metro Police Department report for inmate No. 00654436 read “PROFESSIONAL GOLFER,” though officers didn’t immediately recognize him.

The time and place of arrest were listed as 6:20 a.m. at Gate 1 of the Valhalla Golf Club on Shelbyville Road, near where a 69-year-old man named John Mills had earlier been fatally struck by a bus while crossing the street to work for a tournament vendor.

Over four surreal hours, Scheffler, 27, a man of faith who once proclaimed his “identity isn’t a golf score,” was charged with felony assault for allegedly dragging a police officer with his car while arriving at the course in the predawn hours.

He was handcuffed and taken away in an arrest captured on video that was widely circulated on social media. He took a mug shot in an orange jumpsuit and rushed back to the course in time to shoot a stellar 5-under par that left him near the top of the leaderboard. Scheffler struggled on Saturday, knocking himself out of contention for the championship.

“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 told reporters Friday.

Scheffler called the incident a “big misunderstanding.”

‘I feel for them. I’m sorry’

One of the strangest days in the history of professional golf began to unfold at 5:07 a.m. Friday, when police said a pedestrian was struck by a shuttle bus in front of Gate 2 at Valhalla.

The pedestrian was later identified as Mills. He was described by Mayor Craig Greenberg as “a Louisvillian who will be greatly missed by his family and our community.”

Mills had been “enjoying his time at Valhalla while working security,” his family told CNN affiliate WDRB in a statement.

“He liked to stay busy in retirement. We love him and will miss him,” Mills’ family said.

John Mills enjoyed working security at Valhalla Golf Club, his family says. - From The Mills Family
John Mills enjoyed working security at Valhalla Golf Club, his family says. - From The Mills Family

“It’s unfortunate for the person that did pass away earlier today. I don’t think that’s getting talked about enough, or at all,” golfer Collin Morikawa lamented hours after the accident.

At a news conference after competing on Friday Scheffler talked immediately about Mills’ family.

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

After Mills was struck, police shut down traffic outside the course.

At 6:16 a.m., Scheffler pulled up to stalled traffic in a black 2024 Lexus and steered the PGA player courtesy vehicle into the opposite lane in an attempt to get around the backup.

“I didn’t know what … happened at the time other than there was an accident,” Scheffler said. “I didn’t know that it was fatal.”

On the dark and rainy morning, Det. Bryan Gillis was directing traffic into Valhalla.

“Detective Gillis was in the middle of the westbound lanes, in full LMPD uniform and a hi-visibility yellow reflective rain jacket,” the police report read. “Detective Gillis stopped subject and attempted to give instructions.”

Scheffler “refused to comply and accelerated forward, dragging Detective Gillis to the ground,” according to the police report.

“Detective Gillis 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. Detective Gillis’ uniform pants, valued at approximately $80, were damaged beyond repair.”

‘No idea he was even Scottie Scheffler’

World No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler was handcuffed by police Friday morning. - From Jeff Darlington/ESPN
World No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler was handcuffed by police Friday morning. - From Jeff Darlington/ESPN

ESPN’s Jeff Darlington witnessed the encounter. He wrote on social media that Scheffler “continued to drive about 10 to 20 yards toward the entrance” before stopping.

“The police officer attempted to attach himself to Scheffler’s car, and Scheffler then stopped his vehicle at the entrance to Valhalla,” Darlington wrote on X. “The police officer then began to scream at Scheffler to get out of the car. When Scheffler exited the vehicle, the officer shoved Scheffler against the car and immediately placed him in handcuffs.”

Darlington attempted unsuccessfully to intervene. He was only several feet away when the golfer was arrested.

At one point, Darlington said on ESPN, Scheffler saw the journalist and said, “Can you help?”

Darlington on video is seen briefly following officers as they took Scheffler away. Police tell him to step back.

“You need to get out of the way. Right now, he’s going to jail. He’s going to jail and there’s nothing you can do about it,” one officer told Darlington, referring to Scheffler.

“The police officers around the patrol car in which Scottie Scheffler was in had no idea he was even Scottie Scheffler,” Darlington said on air. “I say that because one police officer came up to me with his pad and said … ‘Can you tell me the name of the person who was just arrested?’”

‘I was pretty rattled’

Scottie Scheffler after his arrest. - Louisville Dept. of Corrections
Scottie Scheffler after his arrest. - Louisville Dept. of Corrections

Scheffler’s attorney, Steven Romines, said his client was headed to the golf course early to prepare for his tee time.

“Due to the combination of event traffic and a traffic fatality in the area it was a very chaotic situation. He was proceeding as directed by another traffic officer and driving a marked player’s vehicle with credentials visible,” Romines said in a statement, referring to Scheffler. “In the confusion, Scottie is alleged to have disregarded a different officer’s traffic signals resulting in these charges.”

Multiple eyewitnesses have said Scheffler “did not do anything wrong” but drove as directed, according to Romines.

“He stopped immediately upon being directed to and never at any point assaulted any officer with his vehicle,” the statement reads. “We will plead not guilty and litigate this matter as needed.”

Scheffler – a new father who has called golf a way for him “to glorify God” – would be seen over the course of the day on video wearing gym shorts and a T-shirt as he was led away in handcuffs and in an orange jail shirt for his mug shot.

“I was pretty rattled, to say the least,” Scheffler said. “I was shaking for like an hour.”

Scheffler was booked at 7:28 a.m. Friday. He was charged with felony second-degree assault on a police officer, along with lesser charges of third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding signals from officers directing traffic, according to Jefferson County court records.

Josh Abner, a spokesperson for the office of Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell, told CNN prosecutors are “still obtaining information in the case of Mr. Scheffler and will review and proceed accordingly.”

Scheffler has a court hearing scheduled for Tuesday.

“My situation will get handled. It was a chaotic situation and a big misunderstanding,” Scheffler told reporters, declining to comment on the specifics of what happened leading up to his arrest.

He sat in the back of a police car and could hear an officer trying to figure out his identity. “At no point did I try to name-drop myself,” Scheffler said.

The golfer said “a nice chat” with the officer who drove him to the jail helped calm his nerves. At the jail at one point he asked the same officer, “‘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.”

He got ready to play while in police custody

Scottie Scheffler plays his shot from the 12th tee during the second round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 17, 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky. - Andrew Redington/Getty Images
Scottie Scheffler plays his shot from the 12th tee during the second round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 17, 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky. - Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Scheffler recalled some officers cracking jokes about how he ended up behind bars before his tee time at the PGA, one of golf’s four major tournaments. He said he looked out from his cell at one point and saw himself getting arrested on ESPN.

“I did spend some time stretching in a jail cell. That was a first for me. That was part of my warmup,” he said. “I started going through my routine and I tried to get my heart rate down as much as I could.”

Later that morning, an officer came to the holding cell and said, “Let’s go… Get ready,” motioning for Scheffler to roll up his mat.

“I poked my head at the TV and I was like, ‘Oh, I might be able to get there. We’ll see how bad the traffic is getting in and out,’” Scheffler said.

Just before his 10:08 a.m. tee time, Scheffler walked down to the tee box holding an umbrella under a light rain.

Chants of “Scottie! Scottie! Scottie!” broke out among the spectators.

“Free Scottie!” one man yelled, eliciting cheers from the crowd.

Scheffler struck his first shot of the day with a crisp click of the club, sending the ball soaring toward the cloudy sky and unleashing applause and another round of cheers from the spectators. Some had scrawled the words “Free Scottie” with markers on their shirts.

After 18 holes and his move up the leaderboard, he summed up his feelings at the news conference.

“It was nice to be able to get inside the ropes,” he said, “and do what I love to do.”

CNN’s Jill Martin, Sharif Paget, Andy Rose, Eric Levenson, Jack Bantock, Eva Rothenberg, Gloria Pazmino, Amanda Musa, Gabe Cohen, Nicole Grether and Tanika Gray contributed to this report.

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