The Incomprehensible Scot was torn between two of his most consuming passions, concentrating on yet another Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal final in Shanghai, or the build-up to an intriguing three-way tussle for supremacy in the Italian Open outside Milan. In the final analysis, the golf won.
“Ye mind,” said the Scot, the strong strains of the steel town of Falkirk still evident after all his years south of the Equator, “I love ma tennus. “But I’d nae be able ta mak a choice tween Roger or Rafa. Yon are tha greetest playas fa me.”
In retrospect – even with the Proteas in action against Bangladesh in Kimberley and the great rivals of recent times on the tennis courts of the world again locked in face-to-face combat – the Incomprehensible One had made an intriguing choice. He was locked into the race for the title developing between Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Ross Fisher and a fast-finishing Tyrrell Hatton.
Hatton, winner of the Dunhill Links the previous week, had been hanging on to the fourth round lead set by Aphibarnrat and Fisher and it was the duel by these two contrasting characters which had caught the Scot’s imagination.
“Tha Barnrat,” he commented, “I ken tha’s made pals wi a few hamburgers. Tha Fisher, even if he did card tha coorse record a 61 at St Andrews, looks like he could do with some feedin oop. He canna hide behin’ his own shadder.”
It was indeed a contrast of physiques worthy of note. The pencil-slim Englishman against the heavyweight Thai that all but eclipsed the superb golf they were both producing as the tournament looked headed down to the wire and a play-off of opposites.
The Incomprehensible One’s concentration grew in intensity as fortunes swung one way and then the other. Even the sporadic reactions of those focused on the cricket made scarcely a dent. But as is so often the case in sport it was the third part of the triangle which forced its way to the top as Hatton, whose petulant reactions throughout the round ruffled many feathers.
“Tha moost’ve a iron bottom ta his goff bag,” said the Scot as the Englishman, who thumped his putter into the ground after another close attempt failed to drop – came storming through to take the title by a shot.
There had been a brief pause as the serious gathering watching the one-dayer between the Proteas and a badly battered Bangladeshi attack let out a collective roar as Quinton de Kock – who was to end the day with 168 not out – raced to his century and equally loudly informed the Incomprehensible One that he had 100.
It was a number that the Scot found registered some resonance. “Tha’s a numbah I ken,” said the Incomprehensible One, turning back to the battle in Milan.
“I coulna dee bettah than 100 at St Andrews … an I lost a dizzen goff baws.”