BETHESDA, Md. (WUSA) -- On Monday, the question 'Is Tiger Woods back?' will control the media conversation on sports talk radio, television and Twitter.
And it should.
With Sunday's AT&T National victory Tiger Woods notched three significant achievements:
1) He now has three PGA Tour victories in 2012, more than any other professional golfer.
2) He is now in first place in the Fed Ex Cup standings, golf's version of the BCS playoffs.
3) Woods secured his 74th career victory, passing Jack Nicklaus for second all-time. Sam Snead is the leader with 82.
"I've been out here a long time, and I understand what it's like to have to grind and fight, because each shot means something," Woods said when asked about the accomplishments. "The first day [and] the first shot are just as important as the 72nd hole. They all count the same. That's the mind set I've always had."
Need more of a tangible argument that Tiger is back to his old self? How about the fact that he finally played his best golf during the weekend rounds.
Woods shot a two-under-par, 69 on Sunday, capping a three-day stretch in which he went a remarkable 41 consecutive holes with either a par or a birdie. Not one human on earth can beat Tiger when he plays the kind of golf we saw in Bethesda -- the stuff we grew used too in the mid 2000's.
Asked about which part of his game has come around in 2012, Woods had a calculated response directed towards his critics.
"Pretty much everything. I remember there was a time where people were saying I could never win again," Woods told reporters on Sunday evening. "That was about six months ago. Now, here were are."
And for what it's worth, Congressional Country Club played as hard as it
gets -- Friday's +6 cut was the highest of any non-major tournament in
I understand the pressure isn't the same at the AT&T National as it would be at a U.S. Open.
I understand that some people aren't ready to give Tiger his full due until he hoists a major championship trophy above his head.
I understand it's kind of the same way people treated LeBron James of the Miami Heat: all the MVP awards and dunks are fantastic, but until you reach the pinnacle of winning, there will be some doubters.
But understand this: Tiger Woods has taken baby steps on his hopeful return to glory. On July 1, 2012, Tiger took a giant leap forward in dominate fashion. Woods said he "can see the pieces coming together."
The next phase will be playing this way at Royal Lytham on July 22, the next major championship opportunity.