World number one Jon Rahm equalled his worst ever European Tour round to sit 11 shots off the Andalucia Masters lead held by Frenchman Julien Guerrier on Thursday.
US Open champion Rahm, playing for the second successive week in front of his home Spanish fans, was in a tie for 107th at seven over.
His opening 78 left him facing an uphill battle just to make the cut having finished in a tie for 17th as the two-time defending champion at last week's Spanish Open.
In stark contrast, Guerrier thrived in the windy conditions at Sotogrande to card a 67 and sit at four under, one shot clear of last week's winner Rafa Cabrera Bello.
Another Frenchman in Romain Langasque was then at two under, a shot clear of Danish duo Joachim B. Hansen and Soren Kjeldsen, Dutchman Wil Besseling, Kiwi Ryan Fox, England's Andrew Johnston and Swede Sebastian Soderberg.
"I think I'm more relaxed," said 36-year-old Guerrier whose third-place finish in Madrid last Sunday assured his playing privileges for 2022.
"I'm playing to shoot a low score, not save my card, that's the main thing. We work every day, improve our game and it's working at the end of the year."