PGA Stars Who Have Been Arrested

The following article contains references to drug and alcohol use and domestic violence.

Orange is not the color pro golfers aim to wear after putting in years of work on the course, but several of the sport's top competitors have learned that there's something more frustrating than a ball plunking down in a bunker — trying to get a good night's sleep on a prison bunk. At least no PGA star has been unlucky enough to learn the hard way that "shank" means something totally different in the clink.

It's not hard to see why golf has been described as "the sport of gentlemen" — it's a peaceful, slow-paced game that requires zero hustle or brute strength. But off the fairway, some famous golf players have engaged in ungentlemanlike behavior that has gotten them in trouble with the law. America's ill-behaved former president, Donald Trump, is even a golfer with a mugshot. An iconic, fictitious golf star has had a run-in with the boys in blue, too. After Christopher McDonald was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence in 2017, an eyewitness told TMZ that the actor tried to impress police by telling them that he played Shooter McGavin in Adam Sandler's golf comedy "Happy Gilmore." And when the world's No. 1 golfer was arrested in 2024, the McGavin parody account on X, formerly known as Twitter, shared a collection of famous golf mugshots along with the words, "Welcome to the club, Scottie."

The drive that landed Scottie Scheffler in a jail cell

Scottie Scheffler's journey to the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky, got delayed when he reportedly failed to comply with police instructions. The world's top-ranked golfer was on his way to tee off for the second round of the 2024 PGA Championship when traffic came to a standstill due to an accident that resulted in a pedestrian fatality. According to ESPN, one of its reporters, Jeff Darlington, saw Scheffler try to pass the halted vehicles on the road. An officer told him to proceed no further, and when the golfer kept driving, the cop grabbed onto Scheffler's vehicle. Scheffler hit the brakes shortly thereafter and was yanked out of the car and handcuffed. 

The officer who tried to stop the vehicle suffered some minor injuries, and Scheffler was charged with four offenses, including felony assault of a police officer. The maximum punishment for this particular crime is a 10-year prison sentence. "We'll be pleading not guilty," his attorney later told Golf magazine.

Scheffler only spent a few hours in a holding cell and made the most of his time there by doing his pre-game warmup routine. He was released in time for his tee-off, and he finished the day tied for fourth on the leaderboard after shooting 5-under par. "There was a big misunderstanding of what I thought I was being asked to do," he said of the unfortunate incident. "I never intended to disregard any of the instructions."

John Daly has been arrested and detained

John Daly's career is on the downswing these days, and it didn't help matters that he had to drop out of the 2024 PGA Championship on the second day after injuring his thumb. However, he was riding high in 1991 when he won the championship — then he quickly lost some of the goodwill he'd earned from golf fans. The following year, he was arrested after he reportedly threw his fiancée, Bettye Fulford, against a wall. According to Sports Illustrated, he pleaded guilty to a harassment charge and escaped jail time.

Daly went to rehab after that incident, but the golfer didn't stay sober — even when he was on the course. In an appearance on "In Depth with Graham Bensinger," he confessed, "There were some times on tour that I didn't sober up until about the 13th hole." He also revealed that he played some of his best golf while drunk. However, his drinking also got him into trouble. In 2008, news outlets reported that police took him into custody because he appeared heavily intoxicated at a Hooters in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. He wasn't charged with a crime and insisted that his drinking wasn't the issue that night — he'd fallen asleep without closing his eyes, so his companions feared he was dead and called for help. Still, he later told the media that he got slapped with a six-month suspension from the PGA Tour because of the incident.

After his arrest, Tiger Woods got advice from John Daly

Four-time PGA Championship winner Tiger Woods fell asleep at the wheel before his 2017 arrest, and he looked as if he was still struggling to keep his eyes open when he posed for one of professional golf's most famous mugshots. According to TMZ, Woods' car was badly damaged when cops discovered it on a Florida roadside. They noted in the police report that Woods was disoriented and thought he was in California.

In a statement, Woods revealed that alcohol wasn't to blame for his condition at the time of his arrest. "What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications," he explained, per People. "I didn't realize the mix of medications had affected me so strongly." When the results of a toxicology report revealed that the medications in Woods' system had included an anti-anxiety drug, two different opioids, an insomnia medication, and THC, he released another statement. As reported by CNN, he explained that he had made the mistake of trying to self-medicate insomnia and pain in his back. Woods also tweeted that he was seeking treatment for his pain medication use.

Speaking to TMZ about Woods' arrest, John Daly offered his fellow golfer some advice. "Get back on the golf course, man. This stuff will pass," he said. Woods did exactly that and staged a stellar career comeback by winning the 2019 Masters Tournament.

Tommy Gainey got caught in a sting operation

Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey sounds more like the name of a mafioso than a pro golfer. However, Gainey was only one of the small fish who got caught in a sting operation aimed at hooking wrongdoers engaged in a horrific criminal enterprise: human trafficking.

Gainey gained his nickname by wearing a pair of gloves when he plays, but he can count his PGA Tour wins on one hand: the 2012 McGladrey Classic. His career achievements also got overshadowed in 2019 when he was arrested in what was known by Florida law enforcement officials as "Operation Santa's Naughty List." Over 100 perps got something worse than coal in their stockings when the Polk County Sheriff's Office Vice Unit targeted human traffickers, prostitutes, and those seeking their services. For Gainey, that was a misdemeanor charge for soliciting a prostitute. According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office website, some of the other people arrested in the sting had committed far worse crimes, including attempted child predation. "The primary purpose for these operations is to identify victims of human trafficking and those who prey on the victims, as well as the deviant child predators who stalk children online," said Sheriff Grady Judd.

Gainey, who is married with two kids, didn't have to do any time for his crime; he was given an 11-month probation sentence instead. Lady Luck smiled on him again the month after his arrest when he won The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic.

Angel Cabrera couldn't duck the long arm of the law

Argentine golfer Ángel Cabrera boasts three PGA Tour wins, including the 2007 U.S. Open and 2009 Masters. But his future with the tour looked uncertain when the man known as "El Pato," or "The Duck," due to his distinct gait, waddled himself into some legal hot water. After being arrested on an Interpol warrant in 2021, Cabrera was extradited to Buenos Aires from a Brazilian jail to stand trial for assaulting an ex-girlfriend. According to BBC Sports, the evidence against the golf star included security camera footage of the victim being threatened by Cabrera. He was sentenced to two years in prison on gender violence charges. The facility in Argentina where he began serving his sentence is known as "The Prison of Hell."

Cabrera found himself back in court in 2022 when another ex accused him of harassing her. He was convicted again and hit with a concurrent sentence that would have kept him behind bars for almost four years. However, he was released on parole in August 2023. Cabrera had previously been suspended by the PGA Tour, but that December, he was allowed to begin competing in its events again.

After his release, Cabrera spoke to Golf Digest about how he treated his exes. "They had the bad luck of being with me when I was at my worst," he said, as noted by NBC Sports. "I wasn't the devil, but I did bad things."

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues or is dealing with domestic abuse, contact the relevant resources below: