Scheffler starts his day in jail, then finds peace and a chance to win in the midst of all the chaos - Hindustan Times
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Scheffler starts his day in jail, then finds peace and a chance to win in the midst of all the chaos

AP |
May 18, 2024 02:23 AM IST

Scheffler starts his day in jail, then finds peace and a chance to win in the midst of all the chaos

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Perspective was even harder to come by than birdies through all the raindrops, bourbon and cigar smoke that streamed across golf's biggest stage Friday during one of the sport's most bizarre mornings ever.

Scheffler starts his day in jail, then finds peace and a chance to win in the midst of all the chaos
Scheffler starts his day in jail, then finds peace and a chance to win in the midst of all the chaos

By the time the world's best player, Scottie Scheffler, had been booked into jail, had his mug shot taken, his police statement recorded, his release secured, entrepreneurs near Valhalla Golf Club were already selling “Free Scottie” T-shirts outside. Fans, some of them self-proclaimed Scottie lovers, were already wearing them inside.

And by the time Scheffler walked off the course, remarkably tied for third place at the PGA Championship after a round that looked as efficient as any he’s played of late, he had chipped away, birdie by birdie, at the notion that the pre-dawn scuffle with police, the trip downtown, that jail-issued orange shirt, or any of the endless snark and commentary that surrounded all of this would slow him down.

Was it a classic case of mind over matter? Or another illustration of the public's ever-growing thirst for a round-the-clock reality-show life? Depends on who you ask.

“It's just amazing how you come out here after something like that, put that all aside and make a birdie on the first hole,” said Dean Adams, a golf fan who drove up from Nashville, Tennessee, with friends and was waiting for the world's top-ranked golfer near the 14th green.

Scheffler made five more birdies after that and shot 5-under 66.

Every time a putt dropped or a shot was hit, chants of “Scott-eee, Scott-eee” and “Free Scott-eee” pierced across the drizzle-dampened, mud-caked country club. Two fans lifted their bourbon drinks after a nice approach to the 12th green at around 11 a.m. and shouted “Here's one for Scottie.”

“As far as best rounds of my career, I would say it was pretty good,” said Scheffler, who has won four times already this year, including at the Masters. “I definitely never imagined ever going to jail, and I definitely never imagined going to jail the morning before one of my tee times.”

Amazing as Scheffler's ability was to separate his off-course trouble from his on-course performance, this was more than a story about a great athlete's mindset or a remarkable day on the links.

The episode was triggered when a worker for a PGA vendor, 69-year-old John Mills, was hit and killed by an oncoming bus as he tried to cross through traffic outside the golf course in the slickened, pre-dawn darkness.

Police reported that the officer who tried to stop Scheffler as he hurried to the course ended up in the hospital after he was dragged to the ground when the car Scheffler was driving “accelerated forward.”

Scheffler called it “a chaotic situation and a big misunderstanding.” He used some of his time in the holding cell to stretch.

“That was a first for me,” he said.

All this came against the backdrop of the Louisville police force's troubled past: Only a year ago, the U.S. Justice Department found the police in Kentucky's largest city violated the Constitution in various ways with an overzealous use of force that discriminated against Black people.

Nobody will confuse the Scheffler incident with the episodes that led to those findings.

“But it's just another bad look for the city,” said golf fan Bill Miller, a Louisville resident. “I'd want to understand what the cop was probably trying to do. But it's sad. We just came out here to watch some golf.”

To see that this was about more than golf was to take a stroll through the Kentucky rain and mix in with the umbrella-toting, neck craning crowd that lined up 10 deep in spots.

Fans wore orange jump suits and another popular T-shirt selection, these ones plastered with Scheffler's freshly taken mug shot.

They checked their phones for the latest hot take in what quickly became a second-by-second battle across the social media hellscape to be fresher, funnier, more inappropriate.

Almost all the memes — like the photoshopped image of Scheffler wearing his green jacket from the Masters over his orange jump suit from jail — were some level of tasteless.

They spoke more about the world we live in than Scheffler's travails, which are likely to drag past Sunday when the tournament ends and this circus leaves town.

“The conclusion you can draw is that any time you have a famous person involved in any incident that’s outside the norm of, like, eating three meals a day, it’s fodder for the most outrageous claims that can be made or things that can be said,” said Dennis Deninger, a sports communication professor at Syracuse University.

“They are almost always based on little or no facts.”

One beautiful thing about sports is how that ever-present scoreboard displays only the facts. As he left the course Friday, the fact was that Scheffler has a very good chance to win this thing.

And yet, this was another of those days when a sports story cascaded well beyond a scoreboard spelling things out in black and white.

“He's the best guy out there right now, both as a player and a person," said John Glenwood of Louisville, as he waited for Scheffler to pass on the 17th fairway. “We're here to support him.”

His friends standing next to him, who didn't want their names used, agreed. They said they were big Scheffler fans.

One was wearing an orange jump suit he bought that morning; the other two were in their brand-new “Free Scottie” T-shirts that might become the 2024 PGA Championship's most-remembered souvenir.

golf: /hub/golf

This article was generated from an automated news agency feed without modifications to text.

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