U.S. Open Confidential: What does Tiger Woods want Sunday: Perfect scoring conditions or a mighty wind?

U.S. Open Confidential: What does Tiger Woods want Sunday: Perfect scoring conditions or a mighty wind?

Tiger Woods trails Dustin Johnson by five shots entering the final round.
Kohjiro Kinno/SI

Every morning this week, writers and editors from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine will address one pressing question about the U.S. Open in a daily version of PGA Tour Confidential, our weekly roundtable discussion.

Jim Gorant, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: If you’re Tiger Woods, do you want perfect scoring conditions Sunday or would you like it to blow like heck?

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: If I’m Tiger, I want the scoring conditions to be exactly as they were Saturday, assuming that the enormity of the moment will take care of Dustin Johnson and Graeme McDowell.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Blow like hell. The harder the better. Plays to his strength, irons through the wind, the shaped shot. Makes putting less relevant. Spooks some of the other contenders, especially those who haven’t won a major before. Kite won because it blew like hell in ’92. Took most of the field out. He was the last man standing. If the wind gets strong you can be sure Woods will be thinking about Kite and ’92. He knows all that stuff.

John Garrity, contributing writer, Sports Illustrated: That’s hard to say, because I don’t know if Tiger has cured his long-club problems. If he’s fixed that two-way miss with his driver and figured out how to hit his old stinger into the wind, I say, “Let it blow!” But if Tiger can’t control his spin with the driver and fairway metals, a 30-mph wind will amplify his mis-hits and send him over the cliffs. When the wind shook up the Open in ’92, the two guys who handled it were named Kite and Sluman. Not exactly Tiger Woods -types.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Michael’s right: the harder the better. DJ and G-Mac have been very steady today, but it ain’t Sunday. A war of attrition definitely helps Woods.

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: You want it to blow. Also like to say that Saturday’s prime-time telecast was brilliant. Great show, beautiful pictures. Kudos to the USGA.

Shipnuck: Yeah, Pebble is always pretty, but it’s truly breathtaking in the twilight.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: If you’re Tiger you want it to set up for perfect scoring conditions. The wind factor brings in the fluke factor. Tiger can make bunches of birdies, but he can make more bogeys if the course plays too hard. He’s still not quite where he needs to be for hard conditions.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf Magazine: Completely agree with Farrell. Wind is the ultimate equalizer. Despite his success at British Opens, Woods has had some trouble in the wind there as well. He wants perfect scoring conditions Sunday so he can let his game take care of the rest.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Golf.com: If I’m Tiger, I am thinking, “Bring on Armageddon.” The worse the conditions, the more mental toughness, physical strength and perseverance come into play. Johnson and McDowell haven’t proven they can gut it out on Sunday at a major. Why not ratchet up the pressure a few more notches?

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I’m with David. The tougher the conditions, the more it favors Tiger, especially since there are only two players in front of him. If there is no wind, it opens the door for somebody else to go low. And I have to think he likes being in the group in front of the leaders. Tiger can really turn up the heat on Johnson and McDowell if he gets on an early roll. And they are going to know what’s happening right in front of them.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Interesting that Tiger will be chasing Dustin Johnson, who is the new Tiger in terms of his length advantage over the field. The two played a practice round this week, and Tiger was in awe of Johnson’s length. Dustin has won here in the rain and the sun. Tiger will prefer tough conditions, but the way Dustin is playing he might, too.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: If I’m Tiger, I pray that Dustin Johnson’s brain forgets its treasure trove of Pebble Beach memories and that his game thus collapses, because otherwise it doesn’t matter what anybody shoots on Sunday afternoon.

Morfit: But neither of Johnson’s wins here were the result of stellar final rounds. No final round was played in the weather-shortened AT&T in 2009 and Johnson struggled until he birdied 18 this year.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The weather doesn’t matter. Tiger knows how to play under major championship pressure on Sunday. He excels at it. Let’s face it, he looked like the Tiger of old coming in today. I’d like to see Johnson or McDowell win this, but they’re at a big disadvantage. If Tiger can back up his Saturday performance, and in the old days we wouldn’t even question that, he’ll be very difficult to beat.