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Morning 9: Tiger: I have to shut it down sometimes | Who is Matt Killen? | J-Day on Disney visit



By Ben Alberstadt (

March 13, 2019

Good Wednesday morning, golf fans. (For the concerned: 2 directly Tiger-related stories today, 2 indirectly)
1. Tiger: “I’m going to have to shut down at times”
Martin Dempster of the Scotsman reports on Tiger Woods’ Tuesday press conference at The Players, which followed his traditional morning nine-hole practice round.
  • “Woods wasted no time dismissing fears that a neck strain that led to him missing the event at Bay Hill, where he’d won eight times, was a result of his back problems having flared up again.”
  • “It’s not painful now,” reported the 14-time major winner, who, nonetheless, linked the injury to the spinal fusion surgery he underwent in April 2017. “It was getting to the point where it was affecting my set up, my backswing, my through swing. It was just gradually getting worse and that’s just because my lower back is fused. “The stress has to go somewhere if I don’t have movement, so it’s very important for me to keep pliable. I have to stay fit and I have to stay as loose as I possibly can for as long as I play out here.”
  • Woods also states…”I have to be conscious that I can’t practice like I used to,” he said. “I can’t devote the hours I used to on every facet of my game. I have to pick 20 minutes here an hour there and focus on parts of my game. That’s how it is going to be going forward. I have to pick my days and I’ve got to pick my hours. On top of that, there are times I just can’t do it. I have to shut it down, just like I did last week. I had to shut it down to get ready for this week.”

Full piece.

2. Who is Matt Killen?
Two years ago, our Johnny Wunder spoke with the man who would one day advise one of the greatest putters of all time on his craft.
A bit from JW’s profile of Matt Killen…
  • “On my way home from Toronto during the Canadian Open, I ran into Killen, whose story is every bit as compelling as the players he coaches. It was a random encounter at the Toronto airport, but I was compelled to introduce myself being hugely interested in his story. He’s a soft-spoken, Southern native with an overwhelming sense of confidence when he discusses golf mechanics. After a bit of small talk, we dug into his swing philosophies. I found myself dumbfounded with the ease in which he was able to explain body mechanics and clubface dynamics. That’s what the great teachers seemingly all have in common; their knowledge of the swing is ridiculously rich, but their ability to deliver the message simply and tailor it to the learning styles of each student is what breeds success.”
  • “Although the attention on our golfing prodigies always seems to focus on the players, being a swing coach to those players at such a young age is far more unlikely than winning on the PGA Tour. Young teachers are at a disadvantage based on experience and time. So how can a strong, trusting relationship be built with someone so young? After all, information in regards to the golf swing, especially at that level, always just seems a bit more reliable coming from the mouth of say a 40- or 50-year-old guy who has made the rounds in golf academies, and/or was a successful player in his own right.”
  • “Killen was just a skinny teenager who had the courage to speak up when his best friend’s father, Kenny Perry, was looking for something or someone to light the fire. With the burning passion of youth, Matt was the kid for the job. Most teenagers would have shied away from an intimidating situation like that. The saying, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” never seemed more appropriate.”
  • “What’s Killen’s first point of focus when working with a top player?…”What’s gonna make them the most money?” Killen said.”

Full piece.

3. JT on Killen
Matt Killen also works with Justin Thomas (it was Thomas who facilitated the introduction to Woods).
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard quoting Thomas…
  • “I would say a lot of people have found out that he was my putting coach this week. I had a lot of people [who] probably had no idea,” Thomas laughed.
  • “Thomas explained he’s known Killen since he was 6 or 7 years old and characterized the duo’s relationship as more of a friendship than a business arrangement.”
  • Thomas added…”He’s good at saying things in different ways,” Thomas said. “He can dumb it down for you as much as you want or get as technical as you want to try and help out.”
4. Champ’s changes’s Andrew Tursky reports on Cameron Champ’s equipment changes ahead of The Players…
  • “Champ, on the other hand, after missing two cuts in his last two starts, is going back to clubs that he played in the past after messing around with new equipment for much of 2019. Since his first PGA TOUR victory at the 2018 Sanderson Farms Championship, Champ has changed a lot of his equipment. He went from Ping iBlades with KBS Tour C-Taper irons to the new Ping Blueprint prototype irons with True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100 shafts in 2019. He also changed into a new Ping G410 Plus driver with a longer shaft length, and while he’s played a Fujikura Pro Tour Spec 63 shaft for most of his professional career, Champ switched into an LA Golf Shafts prototype last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.”
  • “For Champ, who’s ranked 94th in Strokes Gained Approach in 2019, it’s back to old faithfuls; Ping iBlades with KBS Tour C-Taper 130X shafts, and a Fujikura Pro Tour Spec 63 driver shaft at its original length.”
  • Cameron made a bunch of switches that were very positive,” Ping rep Kenton Oates told PGATOUR.COM. “I think they were good for him. But there’s value in — especially out here [on TOUR] — in what you’ve built and what you’ve done with [the equipment] you had. You can’t put a number on that. There’s no number on Trackman that says, ‘You hit a 6-iron to 20 feet at Sanderson Farms and made the putt for birdie to give you a three-shot lead.’ That you can’t value. So that’s always going to be in the back of your head, and that’s why this is going to be a positive move, just getting more back to a baseline of where he was at.”
5. Day on Disney
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge on Jason Day’s trip to the Happiest Place on Earth during the same week he withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the surrounding social media firestorm–to which Day has now responded.
  • “…Several media members eventually fired back at those criticizing or laughing at Day’s expense, and Disneygate took on a life of its own.”
  • “Day finally had a chance to weigh in during a Tuesday afternoon press conference at TPC Sawgrass, where he’s ready to go for the Players Championship after receiving four cortisone injections in and around his spine.”
  • “That treatment took place last Thursday in Palm Beach, Fla., the day he withdrew at Bay Hill, and Day was instructed to walk around and stay active over the weekend.”
  • “That’s why he was fine walking around a theme park with his family Friday, though he said he didn’t go on any of the rides.”
6. Teachers to watch
…literally…as in, they post a lot of videos and social media content…
  •’s Luke Kerr-Dineen…”The list of new inductees to our Top 100 Teachers list was extraordinarily strong for 2019-2020. There were 16 in all, including the likes PGA of America President Suzy Whaley, Tony Finau’s golf coach Boyd Summerhays, and George Gankas, coach to highly-rated Oklahoma State amateur Matt Wolf.”
  • “So this year, the Top 100 selection committee wanted to take the extra step of highlighting eight up-and-coming, digitally-minded young coaches and golf teachers to keep your eye on…”
  • A few of the selections:…Erika Larkin…Trillium Rose…Corey Lundberg…Dan Carraher

While you’re at it, check out Golf’s full list of the Top 100 Teachers in America

7. Teeing it up with Tiger
Quality stuff from ESPN’s Bob Harig talking to some of the Tour’s younger guns about getting paired with Tiger Woods during the course of his comeback.
  • “From Sam Burns at the Honda Classic to Brandon Harkins at the Wells Fargo Championship to Mackenzie Hughes at the Players Championship to Joel Dahmen and Burgoon at the Quicken Loans to Shaun Norris at The Open to Austin Cook at the Northern Trust to Cody Gribble and Peter Malnati this year at the Genesis Open, Woods has seen no shortage of unfamiliar faces. Many of them were in high school or even grade school when he was dominating the game.”
  • “Back then, Woods was not much for small talk on the golf course, especially among his so-called rivals. But these encounters have shown a softer side, as Woods is more willing to engage with his peers, recognizing that many of these younger players are truly ecstatic about the opportunity.”
  • ‘”It was like a dream come true,” said Dahmen, 31, who is in his third full season on the PGA Tour and played with Woods during the third round of the Quicken Loans. “That night [prior] was kind of wild. Didn’t sleep well. Thought about what I was going to say to him. Should I come up with some jokes? I was kind of stunned, basically.”‘
8. Sawgrass to inspire boldness?
Geoff Shackelford, writing for Golfweek, on the changes to Pete Dye’s Ponta Vedra Beach course owing to its March calendar placement…
  • “TPC Sawgrass is greener thanks to the overseed of cool-season perennial ryegrass. But will it be more forgiving, or just a lot more interesting?
  • “While no less testing thanks to Pete Dye’s intimidating design features, the change in hue has players believing that more length and aggressiveness will be necessary to contend in the first March Players Championship since 2007. At a golf course that lost some of its dramatic appeal during May playings, the change in vibe has players considering a more aggressive approach despite TPC Sawgrass’ ability to punish the presumptuous.”
  • And this…”The primary unknown: just how much more players will attack a course known for showing no major biases by stout ball-striking, mastery of misses and a generally conservative approach. Early on, however, players sound freed up by the slightly softer feel and richer look of TPC Sawgrass.”
9. Wanna loop for Bryson? can tread the turf of the Golfing Scientist’s “classroom”…for a price.
  • Golf Digest’s Stephen Hennessey on a couple of DeChambeau-related charity auctions…”The proceeds go toward a charitable donation to the Bryson DeChambeau foundation, so your cash will be well-spent-and you’ll get to relieve Tucker of his duties for the day and carry the bag at Harbour Town.”
  • “Oh, and you can also bid to play in the RBC Heritage pro-am alongside Bryson, with the proceeds directly benefiting Bryson’s newly formed foundation.”
  • “The current bid to play with DeChambeau is $10,000, slightly less money than it would actually cost to pay for a spot in a PGA Tour pro-am, which is typically $15,000. But we expect that bid to go higher, as the auction was just announced. And the “value” of the spot in the RBC Heritage, is projected by CharityBuzz to be $50,000, so $10,000 is truly a value. The bid to caddie for DeChambeau is $4,000.”
Full piece…including the link to the bid, should you have the means and desire.
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Why players are living so far under par



The PGA Tour’s tagline is “Live Under Par,” and every week we see the best players in the world take on courses set up to challenge them as much as possible. Even on these difficult courses, with pin positions tucked around greens and rough grown out beyond what many regular golfers might ever experience, we still see the pros who are playing their best get way under par and often break scoring records.

But how and why does this happen week after week? Are these courses just not challenging enough? Are players really that good? (“These Guys are Good” was the tour’s previous motto, after all)

Let’s break down a few factors that relate to scoring on the PGA Tour and why we keep seeing low scores on an almost weekly basis.

First off, we have the length. It’s not a guarantee that more length equals higher scores. Pebble Beach under U.S. Open conditions is a great example of that, but if we are to use a recent example, at Hamilton Golf & CC (host course to the RBC Canadian Open), we saw Brandt Snedeker shoot 60 during his Friday morning round, and multiple rounds in the low 60s. Hamilton is not a long course by modern PGA Tour standards, but on a day with some benign pins, little wind, and slower, softer greens (thanks to a wet week leading up), it’s a perfect scenario for someone to make a score. On top of that, to finish off the tournament we saw Rory McIlroy get on a total heater Sunday afternoon to shot 61 – with a bogey at the last, and win by 7 – yes 7!

Rough. As we saw at the PGA Championship this year at Bethpage Black, length plus rough means that you are going to eliminate more than half the field before the tournament even starts. It’s the exact reason we saw the bomber-filled leaderboard that we did.

On the opposite end of the spectrum a dry Open Championship often proves that tightly mown areas actually pose a greater risk to players than rough, since once a ball starts rolling, there is no telling where and when it’s going to stop – although a hazard is usually the answer. Average length rough around the greens makes chipping and pitching difficult, and when you add in the fact that as the week goes on the pins get closer to slopes and edges, it’s a recipe for those having the best week with their irons having the best chance to take home the trophy.

Player skill. This is the X-Factor. No matter what you do to the course fans need to realize that week to week, you have the world’s best players taking their games to every tournament. It all comes down to a numbers game. Half aren’t going to make the cut, 35 percent are going to play well but miss some putts, and the final 15 percent are going to have their games peaking and be inside the top ten.

Within that 15 percent, one or two of those players are going to be firing on all cylinders, and if you are a casual observer, that’s all you really get to see on TV, the guys on fire like Rory this past Sunday at the Canadian Open.





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5 things we learned on Friday at the U.S. Open



If the weather forecast is to be believed, the next 48 hours of Pebble Beach weather will be a blend of cloudy, partly cloudy, and mostly cloudy skies. Rain will never have less than a 10 percent chance of falling, but never more than 20 percent. Winds will peak at 11 mph, dropping to three mph, blowing from west to east, at a variety of angles. What that consistent weather forecast means, is that golf will not be consistent.

The USGA should not need to water the greens, which means that they will slowly firm up, forcing golfers to be even more precise in the changing landing spots they select. It means that anyone who shoots the score of 65 (that was low each of the first two days), will find himself in the thick of the chase. For now, let’s take a brief look back at five things that we learned on Friday at the U.S. Open.

5. The numbers

79 golfers made the cut at 2 over, 11 shots behind the leader. Eight golfers missed the cut by one stroke, while 24 others made the cut on the number. Of the 79, four are amateurs, at 2 over, E, E and 2 under, respectively. That foursome will do battle for its own tournament medal, although none is expected to challenge for the overall championship trophy. Rhys Enoch had an 11-stroke turnaround, from 77 to 66, to make the cut on the number.

Rickie Fowler went 12 strokes the other way, from 66 to 78, to move from squarely in title contention, to 10 shots off the lead. Pebble Beach showed no favoritism to either wave, morning or afternoon. Low and high scores came during each. What Pebble Beach did do, was fray the nerves and distract the attention of the competition. The first act is now complete.

4. Brooks Koepka looks like…Brooks Koepka

True to his word, Koepka doesn’t change much. No soaring highs, no crashing lows…yet. The U.S. Open Champion of 2017 and 18, who is also the PGA Champion of 2018 and 19, stands at 4 under par, tied with four others in sixth place,  five shots behind the leader. Of the nine golfers between him and the top, three have won major titles, none since 2014. Only one of them, Rory McIlroy, has won the U.S. Open, and his win came on a rain-softened Congressional course in 2011.

Besides McIlroy, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson at 1 under, and Tiger Woods at even par, no other golfer in the field has more than one major championship to his credit. It’s a wide-open weekend, so why shouldn’t Koepka have as much say as anyone in the outcome? The defending champion had half as many birdies (six to three) on Friday, but one-third as many bogies (three to one). It’s that second number that will weigh heavily on his result. The fewer the mistakes, the more likely the victory.

3. A Rose by any other name … needs another major title

In 2016, Justin Rose won the Olympic gold medal, a unique achievement in his generation. Problem is, no one knows where it ranks in terms of tournament victories. In 2017, Rose went into a playoff at Augusta National with Sergio Garcia, but came out a runner-up. The Englishman has won 24 times around the globe but lists just the 2013 U.S. Open in his major victories column.

In terms of a place in history, he needs more than one. Rose sits tied with Dustin Johnson, Jerry Pate, Henry Picard and a hundredfold of other champions of a solitary grand slam event. Trouble is, Rose’s long game is not at its best. His putting is sublime, but his driver is wayward, and his iron game, misguided. Do Aaron Wise, Chez Reavie and Chesson Hadley pose a threat to the man currently in 2nd place? Probably not. It’s the Oosthuizens, the McIlroys and, of course, the Koepkas that demand that Rose preserve his pristine putting stroke, while getting his long game in order. This is the elite of the elite, after all. No excuses, no margin for error.

2. Will the U.S. Open see another, first-time major champion?

Five of the last seven U.S. Open champions had not previously won a major title. Two of the last three Open champions at Pebble Beach (Graeme McDowell in 2010 and Tom Kite in 1992) made the Open their first major victory. For those reasons alone, names like Wise, Hadley, Reavie, Kuchar, and Wallace should not be eliminated from consideration this weekend.

True, the U.S. Open environment is a cauldron of pressure, increasing in constriction as each nine holes passes. At the same time, Koepka, Johnson, Kaymer, Rose and Simpson each had to find something yet unknown, to push aside the detractors and gain admission to the exclusive club of Open champions. Pebble Beach is a known commodity to PGA Tour regulars, so the putting might not be the greatest concern of the final 36 holes.

What will come into play, are the playing corridors. Fairways essentially cut in half, pushed left and right toward hazards and other dangers, a fraction of the width normally seen in February. The sure thing is that there is no certainty. The holder of the champion’s silver come Sunday might as soon be a first-timer as a repeat winner. Time will tell. After all, things like this could happen to anyone.

1. Gary Woodland is in uncharted territory

On the bright side, Gary Woodland played around Pebble Beach in 65 strokes on Friday. Six birdies against zero bogeys added up to the low round of the day and a two-shot advantage over Justin Rose. Also on the bright side, Woodland has hit 22 of 28 fairways, and 26 of 36 greens in regulation over the first two days. The leader has three PGA Tour titles to his credit, including Phoenix in 2018.

On paper, Woodland looks like a good bet to hoist the trophy on Sunday. That’s where the confidence begins to wane. Woodland’s track record in major events is improving, with consecutive top-10 finishes in the 2018 and 2019 PGA Championships. His best U.S. Open finish, though, was eight years ago, his only top-30 finish in the event. Woodland tees it up on Saturday in the final pairing, with the 2013 U.S. Open champion. No time like the present to find out if a step to the next level is in the offing.

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Morning 9: Record Rose | Tiger’s iron game betrays | Plenty more from Pebble



By Ben Alberstadt (

June 14, 2019

Good Friday morning, golf fans.
1 Rose starts with 65
AP’s Doug Ferguson on the synergy…”Justin Rose played alongside Tiger Woods, and then joined him in the U.S. Open record book at Pebble Beach.”
  • “In a gentle start to the toughest test in golf, Rose birdied his last three holes Thursday for a 6-under 65, giving him a one-shot lead on a day so accommodating that more than three dozen players broke par.”
  • “It was an ideal start for Rose and for the USGA, which wants a smooth ride after four years of various mishaps in the U.S. Open. The idea was to start safe and make the course progressively more difficult, and a forecast of dry weather for the week should make that easier to control.”
  • “Rose knew what was at stake when he blasted out of a bunker short of the par-5 18th to about 12 feet. He was watching the telecast earlier when Rickie Fowler had a birdie putt for a 65 to tie the lowest U.S. Open round at Pebble Beach, set by Woods in the first round of his record-setting victory in 2000.”
2. “One of his better rounds”
Ryan Lavner at Golf Channel on Rickie’s start…
  • “With little wind and receptive greens, Fowler missed only one fairway and just three greens on his way to a 5-under 66 that shared the early lead at Pebble Beach.”
  • “It’s probably one of my better rounds I’ve played in a major,” he said Thursday.
  • …”It’s been a long road to get to the point where majors felt like another week, because they are bigger. They’re majors,” Fowler said. “But it’s time to soak it all up and have some fun.”
3. O’Connell recovering
Golfweek’s Dan Kilbridge on Kevin O’Connell’s wild week at Pebble…
  • “It was a little bit of a blur, because literally 10 minutes later I was throwing up in the fairway on eight,” O’Connell said Thursday.
  • …O’Connell said he wasn’t feeling great when he started his practice round Tuesday, but he didn’t think much more of it. By the time he got to No. 7 he was in trouble, so much so that he couldn’t even enjoy the ace.
  • …A nasty case of food poisoning had already started to take hold.
  • “I had a stomach ache, but I didn’t know it was full-on food poisoning like I was gonna be vomiting,” O’Connell said. “I could kind of tell when I walked up the hill on eight and started sweating a lot, I kind of had that feeling. … Honestly when I hit it in the hole on seven, I don’t want to say I didn’t care, but I was feeling pretty bad. I was ready to get out of there.”

Full piece.

4. Not so much for Phil
  • Golf Channel’s Will Gray…”Mickelson remains in pursuit of the final leg of the career Grand Slam, and this week that quest brings him back to a familiar venue in Pebble Beach. But the conditions he encountered Thursday morning weren’t a far cry from those he saw in February en route to a win at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, as many big names in the field feasted on a soft layout that will undoubtedly become more difficult as the week progresses.”
  • “But Mickelson was stuck in neutral, making just two birdies against three bogeys en route to a 1-over 72 that left him six shots off the early lead. He made just one putt outside of 10 feet all day, that coming on the difficult 10th where he salvaged par, and he missed a 22-inch putt on No. 3 that led to a bogey.”
  • “There was a good opportunity to score, and I played better than I shot,” Mickelson said. “I thought it was a great opportunity to get a few shots, and I just didn’t do it.”
5. Tiger struggles with irons
George Willis at the NY Post on Woods 1-under opening effort…
  • “After playing the front nine in 1-under, including a double-bogey on the par-3 fifth, Woods played the back nine in even-par, draining putts from as far as 30 feet to keep his scorecard in red numbers. He’ll start the second round five shots behind Justin Rose, who fired a 6-under 65 on Thursday.”
  • “It was typical Pebble Beach where the first seven holes you can get it going and then after that you’re kind of fighting and kind of hanging on,” Woods said. “I proved that today. I had it going early and had to fight off through the middle part of the round and hung in there with pars. I’m very pleased to shoot under par today.”
  • “He made a 30-footer to save par at the par-5 14th, and scrambled out of the bunker to make a 7-footer for par at the 17th. He closed with his 10th straight par at the 18th after his second shot landed in the bunker left of the green.”
6. Who is Sepp Straka?
Scanning the U.S. Open leaderboard, it’s a question plenty are asking. Thanks to Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols for putting a prime together.
  • “…The Straka brothers played college golf together at Georgia, with Sepp staying on for a fifth season. Sam, who was born two minutes before Sepp, went into commercial real estate for three years after graduation but recently decided to give golf another go. He’s currently playing on mini tours in the southeast and plans to try for Q-School later this year.”
  • “They’ve spent their entire lives pushing one another. Both share a career-low round of 62.”
  • “When we were growing up, any time I played golf, good or bad, I always asked what Sam shot,” said Sepp. “That’s the one guy you want to beat in the field.”
7. Good start for Rory report on Rory’s opening round…
  • “All four of McIlroy’s previous Major Championship wins came after a first round in the 60s and the 30-year-old will hope that sequence continues in California after an opening 68 which left him three under and continued his recent fine form.”
  • “The former World Number One has moved up to third in the Official World Golf Ranking after a win last week on the US PGA Tour, his second of the season to go with top tens at the WGC-Mexico Championship, WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and US PGA Championship.”
  • “The Northern Irishman started on the back nine and made a bogey on the tenth after pulling his approach into a bunker but birdied the 13th and then hit a superb tee shot on the par three 17th to set up another.”
  • “After scrambling for a par on the 18th, McIlroy picked up further shots on the second and third and also rattled the pin from 15 feet for par on the fifth after duffing his chip from heavy rough.”
8. BK
Golf Channel’s Rex Hoggard on Koepka’s opening 69…
  • “…Maybe this is the ultimate chip for a player who relishes the role of being the overlooked superstar. Although he’d mentioned a promotional spot for this week’s championship that didn’t include him as a perceived slight, perhaps the real fuel comes from the idea that this wasn’t supposed to be his kind of course.”
  • “It certainly didn’t look that way early in his round when the two-time defending champion birdied four of his first six holes to move to within a stroke of the early lead.
  • “There were hiccups coming in – a missed green at No. 8 that bounced hard and into the hay, a wayward drive at No. 13 and a tee shot at the iconic 17th hole that airmailed the green. They all led to bogeys and added up to a 2-under 69 that was four shots off the pace set by Justin Rose.”
9. So your dad wants to play golf?
Andrew Tursky talked to PGA Pro Anne Cain about the particulars of getting your holdout father started playing golf ahead of Father’s Day.

“…To help us sift through the clutter, and get dad started the right way, PGATOUR.COM recently spoke with Anne Cain, a Top-100 ranked instructor from the PGA TOUR Academy at World Golf Village. Cain was an All-American at the University of Georgia, played golf professionally, and then went on to coach dozens of TOUR players and collegiate competitors”

PGATOUR.COM: What are the essential purchases that need to be made to start playing golf?

ANNE CAIN: “I think a good starting set is a putter, wedge, 7-iron and driver.”

PGATOUR.COM: Should you spend more money on lessons or a club fitting/new equipment?

ANNE CAIN: “I would recommend spending more time on lessons initially. A good instructor should be able to guide you on future club purchases, as well.”

PGATOUR.COM: Do you recommend group lessons, or one-on-one lessons?

ANNE CAIN: “I recommend private lessons if your budget allows for it. Imagine taking piano lessons in a group – you are not going to get the same individual attention as you will in private instruction. Group lessons are better for socializing or getting info on a particular shot within the game.”

Full piece. 


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19th Hole