‘Oh my God, it’s Scottie Scheffler’: Eyewitness reveals new arrest details

Scottie Scheffler of the United States reacts to his putt on the eighth green during the third round of the 2024 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club on May 18, 2024 in Louisville, Kentucky.

Scottie Scheffler during the third round of the PGA Championship.

getty images

At approximately 5:30 a.m. on a bleak and drizzly Friday in downtown Louisville, Ky., a black SUV pulled away from the four-story AC Hotel on East Market Street. Its destination: Valhalla Golf Club, about 17 miles due east. At the wheel was an ESPN production runner who was shuttling four on-air personalities — reporter Jeff Darlington; analyst and former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy; and play-by-play announcers Dave Fleming and Bob Wischusen — to the property to cover the 106th PGA Championship. Most of what is typically a 30-minute drive was traffic-free, but that changed as the SUV neared the club. Shelbyville Road, the main byway into and out of Valhalla, was backed up on account of a police investigation related to a pedestrian fatality.

To circumvent the snarl, the ESPN runner diverted the SUV onto less cluttered back roads and soon came upon a police officer patrolling an intersection about a third of a mile from the club entrance. When the ESPN crew identified themselves and showed their parking credential, the officer let them through. As they neared the entrance, though, they were held up again, this time by a bus just in front of the gate. As they waited for the bus to clear, a Lexus SUV — demarked as a PGA Championship courtesy vehicle — pulled up in the westbound lane next to them.

“And that,” Wischusen told me in a phone interview Saturday evening, “was when the confrontation began.”

The confrontation — which by now you’ve undoubtedly read, heard and/or meme’d about — involved the world’s top-ranked male golfer, Scottie Scheffler, and a detective with the Louisville Metro Police Department named Bryan Gillis. In short: After Scheffler pulled into the westbound lane, Gillis, who was directing traffic, stopped Scheffler and gave him instructions. But, according to Gillis, Scheffler “refused to comply and accelerated forward, dragging (him) to the ground.” In a statement Friday, Scheffler said that he had been “proceeding as directed” and that the incident resulted from a “big misunderstanding of what I thought I was being asked to do.” Scheffler was arrested and taken to the Louisville Metro Department of Corrections, where he was charged with three driving-related misdemeanors and second-degree assault of a police offer, which is a felony.

The bombshell arrest news was broken by Darlington, who had witnessed much of what had transpired. At 6:35 a.m., Darlington tweeted: “World No. 1 golfer Scottie Scheffler has been detained by police in handcuffs after a misunderstanding with traffic flow led to his attempt to drive past a police officer into Valhalla Golf Club. The police officer attempted to attach himself to Scheffler’s car, and 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. He is now being detained in the back of a police car.”

Forty-five minutes later, Darlington tweeted a surreal video — which as of this writing has been viewed nearly 20 million times — of two officers leading the reigning Masters champion toward a police car in handcuffs. “He’s going to jail,” an officer says to Darlington in the video, “and there ain’t nothing you can do about it.” Later that morning, Darlington cemented his status as the star witness to the most stunning sports story of the year, maybe the decade, when he reported his account of the mind-bending events on SportsCenter.  

Darlington, though, wasn’t the only eyewitness. His four commuting mates had also been at the scene, watching on from the interior of the SUV. On Saturday, Wischusen, who has not yet publicly shared his version of what led to the arrest, spoke to GOLF.com about what he saw and heard. His account corroborates Darlington’s, but Wischusen also provided some new details.     

As Scheffler pulled up to the left of ESPN’s vehicle, Wischusen said he and his ESPN colleagues could not see who was at the wheel. Moments later, a police officer “kind of jumped in front” of what the ESPN crew would later learn was a Lexus driven by Scheffler. “He was pretty, you know, enthusiastic, let’s say,” Wischusen said of Officer Gillis. Wischusen said Gillis beamed his flashlight up and down Scheffler’s car and yelled at him with words to the effect of: “Whoa, whoa, whoa, who are you? Where are you going? Get back in line. You’re not allowed to come through here.”

Wischusen said he couldn’t hear any of what Scheffler said to Gillis but that Gillis was “scolding” Scheffler for passing the ESPN vehicle on the left. Wischusen said because Gillis and his fellow officers were in yellow reflective jackets, it was unclear to Wischusen and his colleagues whether they were police or tournament security.    

After Scheffler and the officer’s interaction, Wischusen said Scheffler began to pull away. As Darlington described it, at this point Gillis “attached himself” to the car. As Gillis, whose body camera was not activated during the incident, described it, he was “dragged” to the ground by Scheffler’s car, which led to “pain, swelling and abrasions to left wrist and knee” and damaging his pants “beyond repair.”   

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Here’s how Wischusen recalls that moment: “When [Scheffler] drove past him, the cop got very angry pursuing the car. … My impression was he was kind of running alongside chasing the car, and maybe he tripped and fell. I mean, there was kind of an outcropping or median, you know, by the front gate. And keep in mind, it was raining. It was 6 o’clock in the morning. It was dark.”

Asked about Darlington’s characterization of the officer “attaching” himself to the car, Wischusen said, “I could see him stumble, but I did not have a very clear view of exactly how you want to categorize his contact with the car.”

Wischusen said Scheffler was moving at a relatively slow speed — “the speed that you would drive a car if you were pulling up to the front gate of a place,” he said — and before pulling over had driven approximately the 10 or so yards that Darlington had estimated.

When Scheffler stopped the car, Wischusen said Gillis was visibly upset. “He runs up to the driver’s side, and with the butt end of his flashlight starts screaming, you know, ‘Get out of the car, get out of the car’ — banging on the window — ‘shut the engine off, get out of the car. I’m a police officer.’”

The driver “peacefully” exited the car, Wischusen said, at which point the officer “put him up against the car and put him in handcuffs.” Said Wischusen: “That was when we realized — you know, all the way up until then we’re like, oh my God, whoever is in this car, there’s about to be an arrest of some sort. And then it was, ‘Oh my God, it’s Scottie Scheffler.”

Recognizing the gravity and magnitude of the moment, Darlington immediately switched into reporter mode and exited the SUV to document what was happening. Wischusen, Ogilvy, Fleming and their driver hung back in the vehicle. “I’m not an investigative reporter, right?” Wischusen said. “I thought the exact right thing to do is just stay in the car, let Jeff go out and ask questions and let the situation play out, and certainly not insert ourselves or all of a sudden try to, you know, to have any role to play.”

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The mood in the back of the SUV as the passengers watched this unfathomable scene playing out in front of them? Shock, Wischusen said. “Exactly what you would imagine,” he said. “The number one player in the world just got arrested trying to go into the gate at the golf course. I mean, you know, like, what just happened? Did we really just see what we just saw?

Darlington did not return to the SUV. He wanted to document as much of the scene as he could, Wischusen said, so the others went through the gate and to the TV compound without him. By the time they arrived, the ESPN production team was aware of what had happened and already thinking about how to cover arguably the wildest story in major-championship history. With tee times pushed back on account of the traffic delays, ESPN’s producers had a bit of time to play with before players descended on the course to complete their first rounds — but not much time. The most pressing matter, though, was getting clarity on Scheffler’s status.   

In a very fast transition, we went from an operation of people there to call a sporting event to a news gathering, a news reporting operation,” Wischusen said. “And then at one point we became both. A half-hour after we were on site, we still didn’t know when Scottie Scheffler was going to be processed, bailed out. Was he going to withdraw? Was he going to be sitting in jail? Would he miss his tee time? Oh, wait a minute — we found out he’s coming back. So, we were basically wearing both hats at the same time. How can we be the news reporting organization that covers the Scottie Scheffler story while at the same time documenting the golf tournament that’s now underway, where there are a dozen groups out on the golf course playing golf? It’s still kind of our job to tell people and show what’s going on in the PGA. And for about 14 consecutive hours we wore both hats.”

Scheffler is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday morning in Louisville; it’s unclear whether he will appear in court in person. Scheffler’s attorney, Steve Romines, told GOLF.com that he and his team intend to enter a “not guilty” plea on all the charges. Romines said he does not expect a same-day decision from the judge. “More likely it will be a matter of days,” he said, at which point “either the judge will dismiss the charges, or we’ll go to trial.”

Wischusen said that as of Friday evening, as far as he knew, none of the ESPN crew who witnessed the arrest had been contacted by legal teams from either side. If they do reach out, Wischusen said, “I would think they’d probably go to Jeff first, because (a) our version of the events are basically identical, and (b) he had more information than any one of us. He hopped out of the car and actually documented further what was happening and asked some questions and shot the video. My own speculation is that if neither side has contacted any of us, to me, that tells me that both sides are going to say this never should have happened. Let’s just all agree to let bygones be bygones. Cooler heads prevail.”

In an interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal, Louisville Mayor Craig Greenberg was asked whether the charges against Scheffler would be dismissed. “Right now,” the mayor said, “the case is in the hands of our county attorney, and we’ll let the legal process play out.”

Alan Bastable

Golf.com Editor

As GOLF.com’s executive editor, Bastable is responsible for the editorial direction and voice of one of the game’s most respected and highly trafficked news and service sites. He wears many hats — editing, writing, ideating, developing, daydreaming of one day breaking 80 — and feels privileged to work with such an insanely talented and hardworking group of writers, editors and producers. Before grabbing the reins at GOLF.com, he was the features editor at GOLF Magazine. A graduate of the University of Richmond and the Columbia School of Journalism, he lives in New Jersey with his wife and foursome of kids.

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