Andrew Johnston kept his cool on a difficult day two at Valderrama as he held on to second place at the Real Club Valderrama Open de España, Hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation.
The Englishman fired a three over par 74 to slip to one under but can be pleased with his effort on a day when a gusting wind meant the former Ryder Cup venue lived up to its reputation as one of the toughest courses on the planet.
Only Peter Hanson and Mike Lorenzo-Vera managed to shoot under par rounds of 70, as a level par 71 from Pablo Larrazábal was enough to hand the Spaniard a two-shot lead.
Johnston got his nose in front twice with birdies on the tenth and second but made only one other gain with three bogeys and a double on the par three 12th.
I'm in a good position, I tried to play hole by hole really and make pars – if I made birdies then that was a bonus - Andrew Johnston
"You can't afford to get annoyed – I made double-bogey on the third, and I walked off like nothing had happened, and not worry about it and just carry on, because that is what the course can do to you.
"My caddy and I had a good laugh out there, we bounced off each other well. I knew I just had to stay calm, so there was no point in trying to get angry and I had that attitude from the first hole."
Tournament host Sergio Garcia is a veteran of Valderrama and has a remarkable record of ten top tens in 11 events at the venue. He was one of just four players to record a level par 71 to stay three over, and admitted he had never seen the course provide such a challenge.
"It is playing the toughest I've seen, because since the early 2000s when we were here, the rough is definitely thicker than I've seen before – it makes chipping even tougher, which is usually always difficult round here," he said.
"It's no surprise there are only two players under par – I said at the beginning of the week that the way the weather is, under par or around par is going to have a chance of winning."
Defending champion James Morrison is three shots off the lead after a four over par 75 but he admitted, in the conditions, it felt more like a level par effort.
"You've got to put it all into perspective," he said. "I've shot four over par but I'm still in the top ten. Shooting 75 is like shooting 71 today.
"It's a true test of golf, and this is real European golf and it's the way to play."
Overnight leader Alexander Levy was five over for the day after eight holes but recovered to sit alongside Morrison at level par with a 76.
"It is one of the best five over par rounds I have played in my life," he said.
"I fought a lot on the course today. I started very badly and was three over after three holes but I stayed patient. Not all the time but I tried and I had a good back nine. It's part of maturity."