Notebook: Rookie stars shine equally bright on both sides of Pacific Ocean

Jordan Spieth
Getty Images
Jordan Spieth put together the best rookie season on the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods, and Hideki Masuyama was equally impressive in his first campaign on the Japan Golf Tour.
Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Series: PGA Tour

Published: Tuesday, December 03, 2013 | 10:48 p.m.

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – One of the best rivalries in golf this year was not a rivalry except when measuring achievements on two tours. 

Jordan Spieth started the PGA Tour season with no status and earned temporary membership, won the John Deere Classic, qualified for the Tour Championship, was picked for the Presidents Cup team and finished No. 7 in the FedExCup standings. It was the best rookie season on the PGA Tour since Tiger Woods started with no status and won twice in his first seven tournaments in 1996. 

Across the ocean, Hideki Matsuyama was equally impressive on the Japan Golf Tour. 

The 21-year-old Japanese star didn't turn pro until April. He won four times this year, and his win last week in the Casio World Open made him the first rookie to win the Japanese money title with just more than $2 million. Matsuyama had a pair of top-10s in the majors (he tied for 19th in the PGA Championship), and he earned his PGA Tour card for the 2013-14 season. In his first tour event as a member, he tied for third in the Open. 

Spieth earned 184.432 ranking points this year and is No. 22 in the world. Matsuyama earned 157.47 points and is No. 23 in the world. 

WHEN GOLF GETS IN THE WAY OF FOOTBALL: Jason Dufner took to Twitter to ask tournament host Tiger Woods if the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge could change to 36 holes on Thursday and Friday "so I can watch my beloved Auburn" play for the SEC Championship. 

If nothing else, it got Woods to tweet something for the first time in a month: "Petition denied." 

Auburn and Missouri play at 1:00 p.m. PST, so Dufner's best hope is to play so poorly in the opening two rounds that he's off the course by then. 

Woods, who went to Stanford, has no such problem. The Cardinal and Arizona State play for the Pac-12 title at 4:45 p.m. PST, well after the third round is over. Meanwhile, Oklahoma State (Hunter Mahan) goes after a Big 12 title when it plays Oklahoma at 9:00 a.m. PST. 

SEMINOLE JACK: Jack Nicklaus grew up in Columbus, Ohio, and won an NCAA title at Ohio State. He even dotted the "i" at a Buckeyes football game. 

But as Nicklaus told The Palm Beach Post this week, "blood is thicker than anything else." 

His grandson, Nick O'Leary, is the starting tight end for Florida State, and the top-ranked Seminoles could very well meet Ohio State if both teams win their conference championships on Saturday. Nicklaus said his allegiance would be with Florida State. 

THINKING AHEAD: Results of this week's events could impact 2014 Masters field

Maybe Nicklaus saw this coming. 

He was at his alma mater at the start of the football season and told Ohio State coach Urban Meyer that he had already secured tickets to the title game in the Rose Bowl. Meyer cautioned Nicklaus not to jinx the Buckeyes, only for Nicklaus to tell him, "Urban, I bought the tickets for Florida State. I hope you get there." 

THE CUPS RUNNETH OVER: Add a couple of more cups to the calendar. 

Miguel Angel Jimenez of Spain and Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand have been selected as playing captains for the inaugural EurAsia Cup. The team matches will be played March 27-29 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Among those expected to compete are Graeme McDowell, Jamie Donaldson and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. 

It gives Europe a team match competition in a Ryder Cup year. 

Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin have been named honorary captains of the "Concession Cup," to be played May 1-3 at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. The matches are for leading mid-amateurs, senior amateurs and super senior amateurs from the United States against Britain & Ireland. 

The club was named after the moment of sportsmanship at the 1969 Ryder Cup, when Nicklaus conceded Jacklin a short par putt for the event to end in a tie. The Americans retained the cup. 

DIVOTS: Brandt Snedeker is being replaced in the Franklin Templeton Shootout field by Harris English. Snedeker hurt his left knee after losing his balance on a Segway in China, and is taking the rest of the year off as a precaution. He is expected to return at the Tournament of Championship at Kapalua the first week of January. ... The European Tour has appointed David Williams chairman of the board, replacing Neil Coles, who retired this year. ... The winners in golf over the last few weeks include Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, Charl Schwartzel and Luke Donald. ... Steve Stricker is the only player from the top 10 in the world who has not won this year. 

STAT OF THE WEEK: Adam Scott, Phil Mickelson and Brandt Snedeker are the only players from the top 25 in the world who are not playing this week. 

FINAL WORD: "I have spent more time in the ice bucket than a bottle of Moet & Chandon over the last month." -- Henrik Stenson, who has been coping with a wrist injury.