There are 21 days until Christmas. Procrastinators, you’ve been warned.

Niemann on a mission

Winds whipped around El Camaleon Golf Club on Thursday, but wet conditions and the ability to lift, clean, and place allowed for some scoring at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Among the leaders is 22-year-old Joaquín Niemann, who fired a 66 and sits one shot off the lead. Leaderboard

Niemann is playing with a lot on his mind these days. His baby cousin Rafita, born in October, has been diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy, a rare disease. A glimmer of hope exists in Zolgensma gene therapy, which could help Rafita maintain motor skills and grow muscle. The Zolgensma treatment is very expensive, however, costing over $2 million.

SMA is a dire diagnosis, but there are success stories. Last November, we wrote about the effort to support Stella Lackey, a little girl in Arizona who ended up receiving Zolgensma gene therapy. Stella has improved considerably since her treatment and even gets around on her own using a wheelchair these days. She’s living proof that hope remains for Joaquín Niemann and his family.

Since learning of his cousin’s disease, Niemann has been raising awareness and money. He donated his entire check from the RSM Classic and will do the same after the Mayakoba Golf Classic. His fellow players are wearing ribbons in honor of Rafita, and we’re all rooting for Joaquín to have a great week.

Quick Hooks

We’re used to thinking of Texas golf as a warm-weather activity, but Thursday at the LPGA Tour’s Volunteers of America Classic was anything but. Temperatures hovered in the high 40s and winds reached 20 mph at Old American Golf Club. Charley Hull leads after a 68, and only three players broke 70. Leaderboard

Russell Knox leads the Mayakoba Golf Classic through the first round after a 65. Knox has just one top 10 in the last 18 months and hasn’t won since the 2016 Travelers Championship.

Will the curse be broken? Puerto Rico Open winners Viktor Hovland and Tony Finau are both T-5 in Mexico after 67s on Thursday. (For those unfamiliar with the “Puerto Rico Curse”: no winner of the Puerto Rico Open has gone on to win a different PGA Tour event.)

Eighteen-year-old Akshay Bhatia also shot 67 on Thursday and is tied with Hovland and Finau. After amassing a sensational junior record, Bhatia turned pro last year and has struggled to find his groove.

The European Tour borrowed the PGA Tour’s “Live Under Par” ethos for this weekend’s Golf in Dubai Championship. Andy Sullivan leads by three after shooting 61-66 in his first two rounds. Leaderboard

Also underway on the European Tour is the South African Open. Last week’s winner Christiaan Bezuidenhout is a part of a six-way tie for the lead after the opening round. Leaderboard

We missed one last weekend. On the Ladies European Tour, Emily Kristine Pedersen won for the third consecutive week. She became the first LET player since 1989 and first Danish golfer ever to win three events in a row. The 24-year-old has won four of her past seven tournaments and is now inside the top 70 of the Rolex Rankings.

The Latest from The Fried Egg

The Fried Egg Podcast, Yolk with Doak, Episode 26: Houston Open Redux 

In the latest installment of our series with the golf course architect Tom Doak, he talks about his month-long road trip across America. One of his most prominent stops came at the PGA Tour’s 2020 Houston Open at Memorial Park, a municipal course he recently redesigned. Tom reflects on what he learned from watching some of the world’s best players tackle his work. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Shotgun Start: Frigid under par, a FedEx hitman, and Huh? A Flashback on Huh

This Friday episode begins with a new example from office-life emails for another creative name for Thursday or Friday. Then Brendan and Andy get into the absolutely frigid conditions at the LPGA event in Dallas. In a warmer and certainly softer setup, the Mayakoba got underway with plenty of players living under par, including Rickie Fowler, grinding to stay in the top 50 in the OWGR at the end of the year. An ad read for Smith Devereux (SGS listeners go here for that holiday vine) turns into a story about reckless FedEx drivers in both of their neighborhoods recently and a theory that should perhaps have Andy’s head on a swivel during his runs. On the Euro Tour, the Pissbear is in the mix and another player with two drivers in the bag is making moves in Dubai. Will this just become the new normal? Flashback Friday is on John Huh, who won the Mayakoba by parring Bob Allenby to death in 2012. Research for this shed some light on the incredible story of Huh just to find golf, excel at it, and eventually make it on Tour. Listen to the end for the story of a new player to root for on Tour. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Pro Shop

Just because you aren’t at the Mayakoba Golf Classic doesn’t mean you can’t go spelunking this weekend. Dive into the Caves TFE Quarter Zip from Fairway & Greene! This classic pullover makes the perfect holiday present. Shop today!