(CNN) -- Ernie Els fired a second-round five-under-par 67 on Friday to finish four shots behind leader Pablo Martin in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at the Leopard Creek Country Club.
The 40-year-old South African improved his first-round 68 by one shot in the opening event of the 2010 European Tour after he carded eight birdies in his 67.
In-form Italian Edoardo Molinari kept alive his hopes of a fifth win in his last seven events with a second-round 69.
But it was Martin's name at the top of the leaderboard after a nine-under-par round of 63 took the Spaniard to 13 under.
The 23-year-old opened with two birdies and added more at the sixth, ninth and 11th before registering a hat-trick of birdies from the 13th.
His only bogey came at the eighth while at the par-five 18th he put a three-iron to nine feet and holed the eagle putt.
Els would have been only one shot behind but for three bogeys and was frustrated not to cash in on the opportunity to close the gap.
"They were three really very soft bogeys. Two three-putts and on seven it was a pretty basic up and down that I didn't do," Els told the PGA Tour Web site.
"I feel like I'm playing well enough to shoot some really good numbers, especially in weather like today.
"It was a good opportunity to shoot a low one. I'm not complaining but I felt that the level of play from tee to green, I could have shot a little better than that."