SAN MARTIN -- After hitting the jackpot just two tournaments into his rookie season a year ago, Jhonattan Vegas is discovering just how difficult it is to win on the PGA Tour.
"I set the bar really high for myself after winning the first year," said Vegas, a Venezuelan native. "When you win the first year on Tour, you think you're going to win every year, and it doesn't work that way. You know how hard it is to win out here."
That point was hammered home Thursday.
Even though Vegas tied his season-best with a 6-under 65 in the morning, the afternoon saw him passed by sizzling Nick O'Hern (62) and matched at 65 by Nicolas Colsaerts and Derek Ernst.
"It was definitely a phenomenal round today," Vegas said. "It was really the best round I've had all year from the beginning to the end."
Vegas, 27, was a rising star a year ago, winning the Bob Hope Classic in the second start of his rookie season. He followed that performance with a tie for third the following week at the Farmers Insurance Open, challenging Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson until the final hole at Torrey Pines.
But Vegas' star dimmed as the year progressed, as he missed six cuts in seven starts at one point. A chronic left shoulder injury he first suffered while playing at the University of Texas was partially to blame, and it has lingered.
Vegas, who is averaging more than 305 yards per drive this year, has placed inside the top seven twice in 2012, but he has no other finishes in the top 25.
"It's my second year and I'm trying to play 35 weeks a year," said Vegas, who took five weeks off after August. "That's a lot of golf, plus the practice. I haven't really rested it enough to let it heal. I feel like I'm getting better, but it's not 100 percent."
"Today I was on form," said the 2010 champion. "I could do three more of those and see what happens."
Since winning the Frys.com Open two years ago, Mediate has just one top 25 and has made the cut in only 18 of 44 events. Mediate turns 50 in December.
"I'm going to definitely play some Champions Tour golf for sure," Mediate said. "I'd love to play good enough to have two jobs. I've got some work to do, but it could start here. This tournament two years ago saved my whole career. I feel like I'm home here."
"Only birdie I made all day," Els groused.
Els had just one birdie and one bogey on his way to an even-par 71. He didn't make a putt outside of 7 feet.
"It's not the best start, but it's not the worst start," Els said.
Els spent part of the afternoon with nine autistic children from the Bay Area, offering encouragement as they contend with an illness that has touched his life. The Hall of Fame golfer's 10-year-old son is autistic, and a foundation created by the family, Els for Autism, hopes to raise $30 million for a research, education and therapy facility.