I am interested in the usage of “care to infinitive verb” in the following sentence in Jeffery Archer’s fiction, “Kane & Abel”:

“By the time they reached the eighteenth, Alan was eight holes down, and was about to complete the worst round he cared to remember. He had a five-foot putt that would at least enable him to halve the final hole.”

Oxford Dictionary and another dictionary at hand define “care for/to do something” as “like or be willing to do or have something.”

It sounds somewhat logically uncomfortable to me. We want to erace unpleasant memory by human nature. If it is the worst round (or thing), don’t we hate to remember instead of ‘care (willing) to remember,’ and in Alan’s case, “Alan was about to complete the worst round he’d never care to remember?

Or, is this just the same logic with the expression, “It’s the last thing I hope,” meaning 'I never hope it.'

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    "and was about to complete the worst round he cared to remember" can be replaced by "and was about to finish the worst round of golf that he (had ever played and) wanted to remember". We use this expression more than I care to remember to say, essentially: "I've done this too many times. I'd rather not say how many. I'd rather not talk about it. I'd rather not think about it." Personally, I got drunk, blacked out, and puked my guts out as a college student more times than I care to remember. And then the alcohol poisoning (I've mentioned it here before) on Dec 31, 1965-Jan 1, 1966. – user21497 Feb 5 '13 at 9:10
  • @Bill, as much as it pains me to upvote a comment about self-induced alcohol poisoning, the way you've explained the idiom is inimitable, and it indeed "adds something useful to the post." +1. – J.R. Feb 5 '13 at 9:45
  • @J.R.: Thank you, J.R. :-) It pained me much more than I care to remember, but the experience does lend itself well to explaining the idiom. The language is what's important now. – user21497 Feb 5 '13 at 10:27

You are exactly right. The ordinary use of the phrase is with the adjective in the comparative grade:

It was a worse round of golf than he cared to remember. —That is, the round was so bad he did not want to remember it.

But Archer, writing in a fairly informal style, writes worst, in the superlative grade, and thoughtlessly finishes his sentence with the first stock phrase that comes to mind. It sounds OK; the rhythm is correct; but neither Archer nor his editor reads it carefully enough to realize that worst .. that completely changes the meaning. It recalls the round to memory instead of banishing it from memory.

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    Stoney, you're right! I didn't even notice that idiosyncrasy until I read your comment, and tried to reword the sentence: Out of all the rounds he cared to remember, this one was the worst. – J.R. Feb 5 '13 at 11:11
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    @J.R. No credit to me ... Yoichi Oishi is the one who spotted it. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 5 '13 at 11:16
  • It's just about justifiable by arguing that the set of rounds he didn't care to remember were worse, and that of the set of rounds he did care to remember, it was the worst and only just made it into that set. But then, Archer tends to pile "just about justifiable" use after "just about justifiable" use, which is not justifiable. – Jon Hanna Feb 5 '13 at 11:25
  • @JonHanna You are more generous than I: I say it's just carelessness. It's the sort of thing I myself do all the time, so I recognize it! – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 5 '13 at 11:29
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    @BillFranke It's why I'm here - because the audience keeps me honest. – StoneyB on hiatus Feb 5 '13 at 12:27

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