Pre-tournament favourite Sergio Garcia was facing an uphill struggle to simply make the halfway cut after a slow start to his second round in the Open de Espana on Friday.
Five of Garcia’s 11 European Tour titles have come on home soil and the world number seven came into the event having lost out in a play-off for the Players Championship on Sunday.
However, the 35-year-old could only manage an opening round of 75 at El Prat and failed to make up any ground by the midway point of his round in pursuit of a second victory in his national open.
Two birdies and two bogeys meant Garcia covered the back nine in 36 to remain three over par, two shots outside the current projected cut mark and 11 behind new leader Darren Fichardt.
Fichardt, who had defied the tougher afternoon conditions on Thursday to shoot 66 and end the day one shot behind fellow South African Trevor Fisher, picked up shots on the fifth and sixth to move top of the leaderboard on eight under par.
That was one ahead of Fisher, who was among the later starters, and Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez, who had covered the front nine in 32 thanks to birdies at the first, third, seventh and ninth.
Garcia's hopes suffered a major blow when he bogeyed the par-five second, where his tee shot finished on the edge of a bunker, several feet above the level of the sand.
From there Garcia managed to hack the ball out sideways and onto the fairway, but he found more sand with his third shot and eventually missed from 20 feet for par.
And when a three-putt bogey followed on the next hole, the Ryder Cup star was five over par and in need of a brilliant finish to have any chance of making the final two rounds.
At the top of the leaderboard, Fichardt had made it a hat-trick of birdies on the seventh to move into a two-shot lead on nine under.