The Frenchman hit five birdies over a flawless round for a six-under 65.

South Australian Nick Cullen is tied 29th after shooting a one-under-par 70 while compatriots Deyen Lawson and Jason Scrivener made even par to be tied 52nd.

"I'm very pleased to keep the card clean, it's one of the toughest places to do it," Perez said. "We had a really good game plan going in to take advantage of the softer conditions."

RIGHT: Garcia trails Perez by one shot at Valderrama. PHOTO: Luke Walker/Getty Images.

Tournament host Garcia is right behind Perez along with American Sihwan Kim, Swede Anton Karlsson, Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa and Malaysian Gavin Green.

Garcia is seeking his fourth victory at Real Club Valderrama.

"I love this place, there is no doubt about that," Garcia said. "I hit the ball very well. It's probably the best that I've felt in quite a while."

Bezuidenhout had a lively round – eight birdies and three bogies.

South Africa's Haydn Porteous of South Africa shot an albatross on the par-5 17th.