Scheffler's seismic situation

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M. James Ward reviews the circumstances turning this year's PGA Championship into far more than the sport's second major event in 2024
Posted on
May 17, 2024
by
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

LOUISVILLE, KY. The early morning news from Valhalla Friday created a massive double-take. Media accounts initially were sketchy and incomplete.

A person (John Mills) was killed in a collision with a shuttle bus and then there was news Scottie Scheffler during his arrival at the golf course was arrested and taken into custody by local police.

Talk about a double-header the PGA of America did not want to see happen during its flagship event.

Shortly afterwards it was disclosed the two incidents were not directly related.

I have been covering major championships since 1980 and the wherewithal to get people to and from the host facility can always be a matter of exasperation – sometimes a minor inconvenience and, at other times, a colossal headache. The space involved is generally cramped and there are a range of people involved.

To put matters into context – golf courses when created were not meant to have thousands of people looking to attend. The adjoining roadways were also not meant to deal with the onslaught of all types of vehicles looking to get as near as possible to the host site.

Mr. Mills sadly lost his life during the pre-dawn collision with a shuttle bus.

That situation caused a chaotic scene - vehicles stopped in all directions and only adding to the stress level for all involved. Certain players, those with the earliest of tee times, realizing that nothing was happening in driving to the site opted to walk various distances to get to Valhalla.

Like many of those same players Scheffler was enroute early before sunrise with rain falling in order to get to Valhalla to prepare for the day's play.

What transpired is a matter of contention. Scheffler claims a misunderstanding with his intersection with police. Law enforcement views it much differently and charged him with the following:

  • 2nd degree assault of a police officer – a felony offense.
  • 3rd degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding directions of an officer directing traffic.

Accounts had the officer being pulled by Scheffler's vehicle for a distance of 20 yards before the car stopped. The officer then knocked on the driver's window and ordered Scheffler out of the vehicle and the golfer was then placed against the vehicle and handcuffed. If there were any optics pro golf could do without – this was the most impactful storyline.

Scheffler was arrested at the scene and taken to police headquarters for booking and the typical non-flattering mug shot taken and posted extensively for all the world to see. Again, this is the sort of publicity the brass running the PGA of America would rather not see occupying the first line of attention by golf and non-golf media.

Fortunately for Scheffler the start of the second round was delayed because of the resulting traffic nightmare caused by the fatal incident. Scheffler returned to the course to get ready for his 10:05 AM tee time.

To Scheffler's credit he did not withdraw from the tournament and his play was commendable, scoring a five-under-par 66 pushing his name near the very top of the leaderboard.

The confluence of events is hard to provide suitable context. If there was any player least likely to be involved in such a situation it is Scheffler. His mild-mannered outward appearance is no mask but a true reflection of his daily character. The baffling aspect is how such a confrontation took off to the point in which the world-ranked number-one player was arrested and a police officer was injured.

According to an incident report released by the Louisville Metro Police Department, the police officer who attempted to stop Scheffler from entering Valhalla was dragged to the ground and suffered "pain, swelling and abrasions" to his left wrist and knee after Scheffler's car accelerated.

What is puzzling is that the car Scheffler was driving is a courtesy vehicle provided to all contestants and includes the official logo of the event on the side of the door. Players routinely use such vehicles and gaining access to such events is almost always a non-issue since all receive proper credentials to access the host site.

From what the police report indicates Scheffler opted to use a lane reserved for traffic going in the other
direction because traffic in the lane he occupied had come to a halt. Noticing Scheffler's vehicle the police officer approached his vehicle to give instructions. Then matters escalated with each side having different accounts.

An arraignment is scheduled for Tuesday at 9 a.m. ET.

***

PGA of America Statement

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.

***

Professional golf has gone through a range of issues that have placed an anchor around the sport's neck. The ongoing tussle between the PGA Tour and LIV shows no end in sight. Televison ratings are also down roughly 20%. Now, the top player in the sport will have this situation play out for the duration of the event with a range of comments being weighed on its importance.

One can only imagine if Scheffler should hoist the Wannamaker Trophy for his third major and back-to-back such wins with the Masters happening last month, the nonstop chatter will only escalate to unimagined heights. If one wants a comparable situation think of the intersections Tiger Woods had with law enforcement in several different instances.

***

Scheffler's Scoring Precision

Scottie Scheffler shot 68 in the final round of the 2024 Masters. He shot 67 (-4) Thursday; and 66 (-5) Friday. It is the first time in his major championship career that Scheffler has shot -4 or better in each of three consecutive rounds.

The longest such streak in major championship history is four consecutive rounds (of -4 or better), shared by Tiger Woods (2000), Jason Day (2015), Jordan Spieth (2015-2016) and Brooks Koepka (2018-2019).

***

Depending upon the outcome of what shakes out via the legal system, Scheffler will likely face some sort of disciplinary action by the PGA Tour. However, the Tour will never comment on what action was taken – or confirm something was even done. The longstanding policy of the Tour is that they do not provide such comments on internal matters.

The return to Valhalla should have been centered on the golf being produced by the world's best players. The top player in the game is now embroiled in a matter that will cause ripples yet to be felt as matters play out.

The loss of a human life is beyond tragic. Scheffler's situation spilled from that but the behaviors of the parties involved are now under the microscope. For Scottie, the game of golf has showcased his inherent skills. In addition, he recently celebrated with his wife the birth of his first child. All seemed to be proceeding in the smoothest of manners.

The golf lane is one Scottie Scheffler has shown total comfort occupying. What happened Friday is a new matter where he faces unchartered waters.

Scheffler is a dedicated man of faith. He will need that now in the days and weeks ahead.

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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