Sotogrande - South African Christiaan Bezuidenhout led the Andalucia Masters by four strokes after a second round 68 compiled in testing conditions at Valderrama on Friday.
Lying one shot adrift of overnight leader Victor Perez, the 24-year-old followed up his first round 66 to move eight under par going into the weekend.
"A course like this you can score from the fairways and if you don't hit the fairways you're going to struggle. I prefer the tougher conditions, you've just got to face it and I'm just going to do the same over the weekend," he said.
Bezuidenhout has two runner up finishes on the European Tour but is still searching for that first win after claiming third at last week's BMW International Open.
Tournament host Sergio Garcia added a one over 72 to his 66 to share second, four shots behind, alongside Welshman Bradley Dredge and his Spanish compatriots Adri Arnaus and Alvaro Quiros.
Garcia is bidding for a fourth title at Valderrama after winning the Andalucia Masters the last three times it was staged at the course in 2011, 2017 and 2018.
"I wouldn't say it was a bad round, it was very difficult this afternoon," said the 39-year-old.
Perez was unable to reproduce his opening day 65, the Frenchman signing for a 73 to join a group of five at three under.
Leading second round scores at the European Tour Valderrama Masters at the Real Club Valderrama, Sotogrande, Spain on Friday (GBR/IRL unless stated, par 71):
134 - Christiaan Bezuidenhout (RSA) 66 68
138 - Adri Arnaus (ESP) 68 70, Sergio Garcia (ESP) 66 72, Bradley Dredge 67 71, Alvaro Quiros (ESP) 70 68
139 - Victor Perez (FRA) 65 74, Gaganjeet Bhullar (IND) 68 71, Mikko Korhonen (FIN) 70 69, George Coetzee (RSA) 70 69, Scott Jamieson 68 71
140 - Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA) 68 72, Matthieu Pavon (FRA) 67 73, Espen Kofstad (NOR) 70 70, Nicolas Colsaerts (BEL) 73 67, Chris Paisley 69 71, Pablo Larrazabal (ESP) 68 72, Hideto Tanihara (JPN) 70 70, Julian Suri (USA) 67 73, Fabrizio Zanotti (PAR) 69 71, Justin Walters (RSA) 70 70, Masahiro Kawamura (JPN) 67 73, Gavin Green (MAS) 66 74