From jail, what Scottie Scheffler did (and didn’t do) spoke volumes

scottie scheffler stares from underneath umbrella at pga championship

The moments after Scottie Scheffler's arrest taught us about the World No. 1.

Andrew Redington/Getty Images

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The really great ones have a skill for making the hard things look easy.

This, it turns out, is the first way to know that Scottie Scheffler might be among them: He makes everything look easy. Be they impossible shots or unbearable pressure or through-the-nose expectations, the stress falls off Scheffler’s shoulders like a half-zipped vest.

But there was no avoiding the degree of difficulty facing Scheffler on Friday morning, the same day he faced a question unasked in the 150-year history of major championship golf.

How does one prepare for a major round from the comfort of a jail cell?

By now you’ve likely heard the story. Scheffler, the No. 1 ranked golfer in the world, was arrested on Friday morning outside of Valhalla Golf Club by Louisville police after an incident with an officer regarding Scheffler’s entrance to the golf club. Scheffler, who was trying to enter the course after a fatal shuttle bus accident, got caught in a mix-up regarding traffic flow with a police officer, a situation that allegedly resulted in Scheffler dragging the officer 10 or so feet with his vehicle. The officer detained Scheffler, who was later charged with four offenses, including assaulting a police officer, and booked at a Louisville jail.

How the World No. 1 went from being transported from the venue of golf’s second major championship to a jail cell within just a few minutes remains the biggest question in professional sports on Friday evening. But if you’d like to know a little bit more about the man at the center of the strangest day in golf’s recent history, what happened to him after the handcuffs were strapped to his wrists is perhaps even more important.

And on Friday afternoon, seconds after Scheffler wrapped a five-under Friday 66 unlike any in his life, we found out exactly how that looked. From a press conference at Valhalla, Scheffler told us about the minutes after his unlikely arrest — and about the way he managed to keep himself composed enough to remain firmly in PGA Championship contention heading into the weekend. It’s a story, he says, that starts with a jail cell yoga mat.

“I did spend some time stretching in a jail cell. That was a first for me,” Scheffler said with a chuckle on Friday afternoon. “That was part of my warmup. I was just sitting there waiting and I started going through my warmup, I felt like there was a chance I may be able to still come out here and play.”

Scheffler admits his head was still spinning as he arrived at jail. Just minutes earlier he’d been outside of Valhalla Golf Club, now he was wearing an orange jumpsuit. As he tried to lower his heart rate, he spotted a familiar face on the TV outside of his jail cell: His own.

ESPN’s Get Up was airing, and its hosts were discussing the situation unraveling at the PGA. From his cell, Scheffler could see that play had been suspended at the tournament for an hour in response to the accident — a time shift that afforded him a narrow (but sufficient) window to return to the course in time to compete.

“I was kind of thinking about my tee time,” Scheffler said. “I was like, well, ‘Maybe I could be able to get out.'”

From jail, Scheffler began to work through his typical stretches, and the act worked twofold: when it came time to get to the golf course, Scheffler was mostly ready to swing — and long before he got to the golf course, the comfort of the routine helped to calm him down.

After a little while, an officer knocked on the window of Scheffler’s cell and told him it was time to go. The gears of due process had turned quickly for Scheffler — he was in jail for only a few hours — but now another problem remained: day two of the PGA Championship.

“[The officer] said, ‘Get ready,’ and motioned to start rolling up my mat,” Scheffler said. “So then 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.'”

If we can learn most about people in moments of controversy, well, Scheffler’s actions on Friday told us plenty. He shot 66 after an abbreviated warm-up in a driving rainstorm on the second day of a major championship, and only hours after staring at the inside of a jail cell. And most impressive of all, it looked easy. The closest thing to a struggle Scheffler showed all day was a lone bogey on the 11th hole. Six birdies and 11 pars filled the rest of his scorecard.

But a scorecard can be deceiving, and on Friday it was, because what Scheffler didn’t do was perhaps equally notable.

Like, for example, telling any of the officers around him that they had just arrested the No. 1 golfer in the world.

“No [I didn’t identify myself],” Scheffler said. “When they got me out of the car, I said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m just trying to get to my tee time.'”

Scheffler is earnest to a fault, and if there is a charge of which he is indisputably guilty on Friday, it is his own self-effacingness. Perhaps outing himself as the World No. 1 might have gotten him out of the squad car and back to the golf course, or wiped the most turbulent day of his professional life from existence. Unfortunately, we’ll never know.

“No, at no point did I try to name-drop myself to defuse the situation,” Scheffler said. “I just tried to remain as calm as possible and follow instructions.”

There was a whiff of dismissal in Scheffler’s voice as he said that last part, as if he had not considered the thought even for a second. Only a few people know if this is true — that Scheffler faced the problem without addressing his obvious (and highly influential) celebrity, flicking away the basic human instinct to protect his reputation like a blade of grass on the face of a 9-iron.

If it is, it is impressive. It must have been hard to do that. Really hard.

And yet he made it look easy.

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