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A missed five-foot putt from Watson allowed Europe to steal the early advantage on the second, before Stenson drained a putt on the fourth to establish a gap ahead of their American opponents.
All four players failed to make par on the fifth as the hole was halved, but Stenson and Rose missed opportunities on six and seven to almost put the game out of sight of the misfiring Americans.
Another hole was in the European pairing's grasp at the eighth but both Rose and Stenson missed birdie putts, with the Swede's lipping out to safety.
The ninth saw both Stenson and Simpson set up birdie opportunities, and after the American sent his effort to the right, Stenson stepped up to hole from 10 feet to open up a three-shot lead at the turn.
You can keep track of the back nine by following Sports Mole's live text coverage.