Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

Hardy: Tiger Woods Is Back, But He's Been Back For Some Time

Do I have to say it?

Fine, I'll say it. The short answer is "yes." Tiger is back.

But the longer answer is, "what? What are you talking about? He's been back."

He was back when he had solo possession of the lead on the final nine of the British Open, he was back when he made a run at the PGA Championship and finished 2nd, and he's certainly back after winning the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta.

He was back when he made 6 birdies in the first 7 holes to start the 3rd round, carding a 30 on the outgoing nine. And during that stretch, the fear was back in the minds of the other players. He was the Red Dragon, and before him, they rightly trembled.

It doesn't matter that Justin Rose actually won the FedEx Cup and the $10 million that goes with it. That only provides more fuel to the Blow Up the Playoffs fire. Nothing personal - I'd feel the same way if Rose won the tournament and someone else took home the big money prize.

Nor does it matter that the field was only 30 players deep. With only a few exceptions, the competition was made up of the best players in the world on a real course with real pressure.

All that matters is the answer, which is yes. Tiger is back. So much so that he is now the favorite to win the Masters. And no, it doesn't matter that they won't tee it up at Augusta for nearly 7 more months.

Because when they do, all eyes will be back on the man closing in Sam Snead's all time wins record and putting himself back into the GOAT conversation. Even his detractors, when asked if the sport is better off with Tiger winning, will answer the same.

Yes.

-- By Rob "Hardy" Poole, 98.5 The Sports Hub

You can hear Hardy's thoughts weekdays from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. ET on the Zolak & Bertrand program. As well as the Sports Hub Golf Club every Saturday from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. ET during the season. Follow him on Twitter @Hardy985.