On Saturday in Dublin, Ohio, Jack Nicklaus’s demanding golf course design took a savage bite out of the greatest player in the world. Tiger Woods—whose pursuit of Nicklaus’s record for major victories is what keeps him coming back despite his gazillions—shot a 44 on his front nine. If you’ve played golf before, you may have shot a 44 for nine holes, too–making this about the only thing you have ever done on a golf course that Tiger Woods has also done. Besides spit, snarl, or adjust your hat. The 44 you shot, of course, could not have occurred at Nicklaus’s tournament-ready Muirfield Village track: there you would have shot higher. (Unless you’re reading this, Matt Kuchar and friends.) And it should also be acknowledged that after shooting your 44, you would not have finished your round with a score under 80, as Woods did (79). You just wouldn’t have.
But Woods’s does golf a service shooting his hard eight. The average golfer can get pretty angry banging a couple of consecutive drives into the woods. But what’s really remarkable—as we’re reminded by Woods’s temporary ineptitude—is that the average golfer ever hits the ball into the fairway at all! For if Woods or Phil Mickelson or Michelle Wie can go a whole weekend without hitting the ball where they want, what chance does the average duffer stand? It’s these occasional struggles as much as the flirts with perfection that make the games we watch so compelling. Two years ago, the preternaturally strong-minded golf Kevin Na shot a 16 on a single hole. A 16! 12 over par! It was the worst score on a par-4 hole recorded on the PGA Tour since they started keeping records. Unbelievably Na finished the round at 80, going 4-under par on the other 17 holes. The 2013 US Open is in two weeks and both Woods and Na will compete there.