LOUISVILLE — If golf’s four majors each represented a branch on a big family tree, then the PGA Championship would definitely be that black sheep uncle that is longing to be loved.

He’s a little insecure. He tries too hard to insert himself into every conversation. He dresses funny, and parties a bit too hard on occasion. He’s never going to feel as prestigious or as respected as his siblings. That stings a little.

He’s also — as long as we’re being honest — typically a lot of fun.

The wacky uncle can be a tremendously entertaining hang, and the 2024 PGA Championship was a nice reminder of that fact. Sure, there might be an arrest, or a divorce, that needs to be explained once it’s all over. You might wake up sunburned and missing the novelty “HALLA” hat that you purchased on a dare. But you’re going to remember the experience. You’re going to tell stories about that uncle for the next decade.

It's the reason why it was the tournament where Phil Mickelson gave us one of golf’s greatest moments, winning at Kiawah at age 50. And why Michael Block resonated with so many last year at Oak Hill. The last time they played a PGA Championship in this city, Rory McIlroy won in the dark by hitting into the group ahead of him. Colin Morikawa won a PGA at Harding Park that almost no one saw live. John Daly won a PGA after driving through the night to get to his tee time. Weird stuff tends to happen in this major championship.

The record book will show that Xander Schauffele won his first major at Valhalla Golf Club, and at age 30, it represented a satisfying rebuttal to the criticism that he was fated to always come up small in big moments. He out-dueled Bryson DeChambeau and Viktor Hovland down the stretch, making a birdie on 18 that wiggled into the cup when it easily could have lipped out. He finished one stroke ahead of DeChambeau, who watched from the driving range as his dream of a potential playoff was snuffed out when the putt tumbled in. It was a memorable day, and Schauffele showed he was a deserving winner.

You can also make a decent argument that his victory was about the third (or fourth) most interesting thing that happened this week.

Scottie Scheffler's mug shot after being arrested outside Valhalla Golf Club.
Scottie Scheffler's mug shot after being arrested outside Valhalla Golf Club.

It’s going to be hard to explain to future generations of golf fans who didn’t live through it that Scottie Scheffler — by far the best player in the world in 2024, and also one of the most inoffensive athletes in sports — really did get arrested just outside the gates of the club on Friday. He was put in handcuffs by a Louisville police officer who insisted that Scheffler failed to heed his instructions as he inched past a crime scene in his courtesy car, and that Scheffler not only dragged the officer, Bryan Gillis, for several feet with his vehicle, the incident also scraped and bruised the officer’s wrist as well as damaged his police uniform pants beyond repair.

(The pants were valued at $80, according to notes in the police report.)

Scheffler, who won the Masters in April, was as confused as anyone about all that unfolded. One minute he was thinking about his preparation for his second round tee time, the next minute he was sitting in a downtown jail cell charged with a second-degree assault of a police officer, a felony. (He was also charged with third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding signals from an officer directing traffic.) Even more surreal, Scheffler was processed quickly enough that he was able to return to the course and make his second round tee time.

He promptly shot 66.

“I did spend some time stretching in a jail cell,” Scheffler said, in what may go down in history as one of golf’s greatest quotes. “That was a first for me.”

By Saturday, the shock seemed to have worn off, but so had the adrenaline. Scheffler shot 73, his worst round of the year, and the first time in 42 rounds he’d failed to shoot par or better. He bounced back with a 65 on Sunday, but he was too far back to contend and finished T-8.

“I think I would attribute it mostly to a bad day,” Scheffler said. “Did I feel like myself? Absolutely not. Was my warm-up the way it usually is and the distractions where they normally are? Absolutely not. But I'm not going to sit here and say that's why I went out and played a bad round of golf yesterday.”

Scheffler is scheduled to be arraigned in Jefferson County Court on Tuesday at 9 a.m. A source familiar with the prosecutor’s thinking told No Laying Up that, as of now, the office plans to drop the charges against Scheffler. Louisville mayor Craig Greenberg revealed on Saturday that officer Gillis did not have his body camera turned on during the incident. The 27-year-old Texan was serenaded throughout the week by fans chanting “Free Scottie” as he strolled the fairways.

“I think it finally hit me [on Saturday] what really happened,” Scheffler said. “But like I said, I did my best to leave that behind me and come out here and compete and do what I love, and the support I got from the fans was amazing. I think they were cheering extra loud for me this week, and I got a lot of support from the players and caddies as well. A lot of people showing their support, a lot of players telling me how much they love me and stuff like that, and like I said, I'm really grateful to have the community that we have out here.”

Scheffler’s arrest also overshadowed another surreal development that made ripples throughout the golf world: Rory McIlroy’s decision on Monday to file for divorce from his wife Erica, with whom he shares a 3-year-old daughter. McIlroy made it clear he wasn’t going to answer any questions about his private life, preferring to let his game speak for itself. He finished tied for 12th, but never truly contended after a disappointing 71 on Friday.

“I'm feeling good about my game,” McIlroy said. “I feel like things are sort of clicking more.”

Rory McIlroy during Round 1 of the PGA Championship. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Rory McIlroy during Round 1 of the PGA Championship. (Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

With little else to share, he had even less interest in sticking around to watch the finish. After signing his scorecard, McIlroy was in a courtesy car within minutes, putting Valhalla — and the week — in his rearview mirror.

Those who did stick around saw a hell of a battle. It was like that same black sheep uncle opened a box of bootleg fireworks and started passing them around.

Hovland, who revealed on Saturday that he was so despondent about the state of his game he briefly considered skipping the PGA, looked like his old self for the first time in six months. He shot 68-66-66-66 over four rounds, and was in the heat of contention throughout the back nine, trading birdies with DeChambeau and putting heat on Schauffele two groups behind. Hovland had a birdie putt on 18 that would have gotten him to 20-under, but missed it (and the comebacker) to put a bitter finish on an otherwise sweet performance. That left DeChambeau as the one man who still had a chance to grab onto Schauffele’s shirttail.

It would be spiritually fitting if DeChambeau captured a PGA Championship at some point, because he has reestablished himself, the last two years, as one of golf’s greatest showmen. The 30-year-old is still one of the game’s longest hitters, but this year he says he believes his time spent creating content for YouTube and TikTok has helped him recharge during weeks away from tournament golf, and that has made a huge difference. And the extra time, he feels, is only available to him because of his decision to join LIV Golf.

“As funny as it sounds, as weird as it sounds, having a lot more time back at home to work on my game, to work on content creation with my team that I have back at home allows me to plan and strategize a little bit better than what I have,” DeChambeau said.

Bryson DeChambeau after making birdie at the final hole of the PGA Championship. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Bryson DeChambeau after making birdie at the final hole of the PGA Championship. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

In a moment worthy of a YouTube challenge, DeChambeau made a thrilling birdie on 16 to climb to with a shot of Schauffele after his drive ricocheted off a tree and left him with a lengthy approach from the fairway. He hit it to 3 feet.

“I said thank you to the tree,” DeChambeau said.

On 18, he muscled a shot from a fairway bunker up near the green, then got up and down for a birdie to tie Schauffele at 20-under. After the putt trickled in, DeChambeau sprung into the air with both arms extended, then pumped his fist with gleeful exuberance as he marched toward the scoring tent.

“I thought I left it short like a you-know-what,” he said. “Like an idiot.”

Was it a little corny? Of course. Was it also entertaining? Absolutely. DeChambeau continues to understand one thing many of his peers do not, that golfers are a lot more fun to watch when they don’t emote like humorless robots.

“You know, when I was younger I didn't understand what it was,” DeChambeau said. “Yeah, I would have great celebrations and whatnot, but I didn't know what it meant and what I was doing it necessarily for. Now I'm doing it a lot more for the fans and for the people around and trying to be a bit of an entertainer that plays good golf every once in a while.”

Schauffele is DeChambeau’s polar opposite in terms of temperament. Instead of getting overly excited throughout the day, he tried to remain stoic and relaxed, even when he made a critical bogey on the 10th hole that saw his lead evaporate. The rest of the world assumed Schauffele was collapsing, and Schauffele knew he was fighting that narrative as well.

This time he responded by making back-to-back birdies.

“Someone like me has pretty much tried everything, to be completely honest, that hasn't won in two years,” Schauffele said. “You try not to look at the leaderboards until the back nine, you try not to look at them early, you try not to look at them at all. Today I looked at them. I looked at them all day. I really wanted to feel everything. I wanted to address everything that I was feeling in the moment. I thought I had the lead, so when I looked up at the board I was like, oof. I saw [Hovland] was at 19, so I was back into chasing mode.”

Schauffele is not what anyone would describe as a fan favorite on the PGA Tour. He has a sly sense of humor, but doesn’t display it often in front of the camera. He is, however, extremely well-liked amongst his peers, who have seen all the work he’s put into his game.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Justin Thomas. “I truly do not understand how he has not won more, considering how complete his game is. I’m so pumped for him. I was really nervous for him, but he works his ass off and takes it so seriously. I personally love seeing that kind of pay off. Valhalla somehow seems to have a knack for great finishes.”

When Schauffele came to the 18th tee, he knew DeChambeau had tied him at 20-under, and that he would need a birdie to win. A bogey and the narrative that he couldn’t close might dog him forever. He knew it was a moment that might define his career.

“In those moments, you can kind of feel it, and in the past when I didn't do it, it just wasn't there,” Schauffele said. “Today I could feel that it was there.”

A mediocre drive tugged to the left stopped just outside the bunker, but it left him with an awkward lie on his second shot, with the well ball above his feet.

“We were playing t-ball basically,” said his caddie Austin Kaiser.

Yet somehow Schauffele lashed at a long iron and chased it just in front of the green. A nervy-but-sufficient wedge left him with a 6-foot birdie putt. He took a long look at it, trying not to read too much break one way or the other, then willed it into the hole.

“I just kept telling myself I need to earn this. Earn this and be in the moment,” Schauffele said. “I was able to do that.”

On Saturday night of the PGA, Schauffele’s father, Stefan, texted his son one of his favorite sayings: A steady drip breaks the stone. Schauffele tried to keep that in mind throughout the day.

“It was in German, though,” Schauffele said. “I had to ask him what the translation was.”

That’s how it goes at the PGA Championship. Sometimes the answers come in a foreign language. Sometimes putts drip in the hole instead of lipping out. Sometimes a great time sneaks up on you when you’re least expecting it.

Xander Schauffele smiles after winning the 2024 PGA Championship. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Xander Schauffele smiles after winning the 2024 PGA Championship. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

• • •

Kevin Van Valkenburg is the Editorial Director of No Laying Up

Email him at kvv@nolayingup.com