DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Here is something we have not said for a very long time. Tiger Woods is in the hunt at a big tournament. He has not won anything in five years, hasn't won a major in a decade. But he is considered one of the favorites to win the Masters this weekend. Max Adler of Golf Digest has been thinking a lot about this comeback. We reached him on Skype at Augusta National Golf Club, the home of the Masters.
MAX ADLER: There was all this kind of talk like, oh, Tiger's story, it's Shakespearean; it's like a Greek tragedy. And I started thinking deeper. Like, well, what does that really mean? And I kind of remembered a book that I had stumbled across years before, "A Hero Of A Thousand Faces" (ph) by Joseph Campbell, which is really this very influential book that shows how all of the stories, myths, legends and fables, whether it's Hollywood movies or fairy tales, they all kind of contain the same narrative structure. And so I thought, OK, well what - if we apply Tiger's life to this narrative structure, you know, how does it stack up? And the parallels were, like, really stunning. They are even closer than I had hoped for.
GREENE: Can you give us one parallel?
ADLER: Sure. So one is, you know, the crossing of the first threshold. This is where the hero ventures into unknown territory with unforeseen dangers. For Tiger, that was so clearly 1980s Southern California, the all-white country club scene. Here he was, this this nonwhite kid, the first to kind of really crack the territory of this...
GREENE: Cross the threshold.
ADLER: ...Very kind of uncomfortable place to be, yeah.
GREENE: So you can - I mean, his scandal - you talk about the affairs, and the fallout with his wife and the arrest for the DUI last year. Like, it - these are some bad choices. Can you really still call him a hero?
ADLER: Well, you know, it's interesting. He's obviously a human being. And Campbell says the difference a celebrity and a hero is the former lives only for himself, and the latter seeks to redeem everybody. So, you know, whatever reward the hero is chasing in his journey or his story, when he gets to the end, he kind of ends up doing something that benefits all. And we're not to the end of Tiger's story.
GREENE: So, I mean, a lot more people are paying attention to this year's Masters because of the Tiger story. What makes him so irresistible?
ADLER: Every facet of his life is just so intriguing. I mean, in a sea of athletes in golf that have been kind of dismissed as being a bit uniform, he is a mixture of black and Asian heritage. When he stepped onto the tour when he was 21, I mean, he won immediately. He became No. 1 within a year. That's what makes him so electric because his life has kind of hit all of these perfect narrative plot points.
GREENE: Could he really win this weekend?
ADLER: Absolutely. I mean, he's finished second and fifth in his last two tournaments. And at Augusta, experience is at a premium. I mean, he knows this course. He's played it all almost every year since 1996, and that puts him at a great advantage over the rest of the field - not to mention the fact the fairways are wide, and that accommodates the one weakness of his game, relatively speaking, as he tends to spray the ball a bit with his driver.
GREENE: We've been talking to the hero of golf writing, Max Adler. Max, thanks so much. We appreciate it.
ADLER: That's an overstatement, but I'll take it. Thank you.
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GREENE: Max is the editorial director of Golf Digest. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.