Scottie Scheffler arrested in alleged assault on police officer outside PGA Championship, then returns to play

Andy Rose, CNN | 5/17/2024, 11:52 a.m.
World No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler was arrested and charged with a felony and other counts Friday morning outside the …
PGA golfer Scottie Scheffler was detained by police after he tried to drive past a police officer into Valhalla Golf Club. Mandatory Credit: Louisville Metropolitan Police Dept. via CNN Newsource

World No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler was arrested and charged with a felony and other counts Friday morning outside the PGA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky, after allegedly injuring a police officer while trying to drive past the scene of a fatal crash.

Scheffler 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.

He was then released from jail and returned to the Valhalla Golf Course for the second round of the tournament. Shortly after 10 a.m., he struck his first tee shot of the day, earning a round of applause from the crowd, and birdied the first hole.

Scheffler’s attorney told CNN he plans to plead not guilty to the charges. In a statement, Scheffler called the incident a “big misunderstanding.”

“This morning, I was proceeding 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 in a statement on Instagram. “I never intended to disregard any of the instructions. I’m hopeful to put this to the side and focus on golf today.”

The arrest of the world’s best golfer – known as an “upright, outstanding” player who became a father just days ago – dramatically transformed one of golf’s major tournaments into, as ESPN anchor Dave Flemming said, “a championship in chaos.” Scheffler, 27, won his second Masters title last month and was the overwhelming favorite in the PGA Championship.

The incident began when Scheffler drove to the Valhalla Golf Club for the second round of the tournament around 6 a.m., according to ESPN’s Jeff Darlington, who witnessed and filmed the arrest.

Earlier in the morning, a pedestrian had been fatally struck by a bus while trying to cross the main road leading to the course, Louisville Metro Police Department spokesperson Dwight Mitchell said. Police presence around the entrance to the course was therefore elevated.

When Scheffler arrived, he tried to drive around the crash scene on a median, according to ESPN, which first reported Scheffler’s detention. “A police officer instructed Scheffler to stop, but Scheffler continued to drive about 10 to 20 yards toward the entrance,” ESPN said.

“Scheffler then stopped his vehicle at the entrance to Valhalla. 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 posted on X. Scheffler was in a marked player courtesy vehicle, Darlington said on ESPN.

Police walked with Scheffler, who was in handcuffs, and placed him into a police vehicle, Darlington’s video shows.

“Right now he’s going to jail,” an officer at the scene says in the video.

According to a Louisville Metro Police report obtained, Scheffler was trying to gain access to the golf course when he was stopped by an officer wearing a full police uniform and a yellow reflective rain jacket. The officer, identified as Det. Bryan Gillis, stopped Scheffler and attempted to give instructions.

“Subject refused to comply and accelerated forward, dragging Detective Gillis to the ground,” the report states.

The detective suffered pain, swelling and abrasions to his left wrist and knee and was taken to the hospital for further treatment, the report states. His uniform pants, valued at about $80, “were damaged beyond repair,” the report adds.

Attorney calls arrest ‘misunderstanding’

Louisville police are expected to make a statement about the arrest on Friday after reviewing video of the incident, a senior law enforcement official said. Preliminary information indicates an officer tried to stop Scheffler from going around the detour, and Scheffler‘s car made contact with that officer. The officer was not seriously injured.

Scheffler’s attorney, Steven Romines, told CNN in a statement Friday that Scheffler was headed to the golf course to prepare for his tee time at the PGA Championship.

“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 the confusion, Scottie is alleged to have disregarded a different officer’s traffic signals resulting in these charges.”

Romines says multiple eyewitnesses have confirmed that Scheffler “did not do anything wrong” but drove as directed.

“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’s arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday.

The pedestrian who died in the earlier crash was a worker with a vendor for the PGA of America, the organizer of the PGA Championship, the organization said. The man’s death “truly puts everything in perspective,” Scheffler said in his statement.

Scheffler’s arrest represents a stark contrast from his clean image, said David Dusek, senior writer at Golfweek.

“Scottie Scheffler is one of the most squeaky clean, upright, outstanding, well-respected players out here on the PGA Tour,” Dusek said. “He is someone who is known for having a very calm, level head on the golf course and he keeps that when he’s off the golf course as well.”

After a stellar 2023 campaign that saw him retain the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year title, Scheffler this season has only consolidated his status as the dominant force in men’s golf. Just one week after a commanding victory at The Arnold Palmer Invitational, he mounted a stunning late charge to become the first player to ever defend The Players Championship.

Since then, the 27-year-old has looked borderline unstoppable, as victory at the RBC Heritage – just one week on from easing into his second green jacket at Augusta – made it four wins in five starts.

Scheffler last week stepped away from competitive action to be with wife Meredith as she gave birth to the couple’s first child, Bennett.

“Sitting at home with the girl I dated in high school with our child and then the Green Jacket sitting in the closet is a pretty insane feeling,” he said, “and I just wanted to be as thankful as possible.”

Following play Thursday in Louisville, Scheffler was looking ahead to trying to “clean up a few of the mistakes,” he said.

“I missed two putts I felt like I should have holed today, but that’s going to happen when the greens get a little chewed up,” he said. “I felt like there was a couple things I can clean up going into tomorrow, but overall today was a solid round.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story had the wrong last name for attorney Steve Romines.

This story has been updated with additional information.