By Tony Jimenez
GLENEAGLES Scotland (Reuters) - The European team, helped by a magical stroke from Sergio Garcia, held the upper hand early in the opening fourballs at the 40th Ryder Cup on Friday.
The holders led in two of the four matches and were all square in another, with the only sign on the leaderboard of United States red colours coming from rookie pair Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed.
Spieth and Reed took advantage of a lacklustre early performance from European talisman Ian Poulter and debutant Stephen Gallacher to surge three up after eight holes in match three.
Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson were in complete command of match one, racing four up on an out-of-sorts Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson through 10.
Garcia holed out from a greenside bunker at the fourth as he and world number one Rory McIlroy were all square with Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley after seven.
In the remaining match, Thomas Bjorn and Martin Kaymer were playing the best golf of the day as they squeezed four birdies in the opening nine holes to move one up on Rickie Fowler and Jimmy Walker.
Earlier, thousands packed in and around the monster grandstand on the first tee as the fourballs swung into action to start three days of battle between the hosting Europeans and an American team seeking their first away victory since 1993.
On a chilly, breezy morning, the first players emerged from the specially-built tunnel to a rousing welcome, with the ubiquitous chant of "Yu-roop" ringing loud in the air from every quarter.
The tension filtered through to veteran starter Ivor Robson as, despite Watson owning the most recognisable pink-shafted driver in the game, he managed to get him mixed up and announced partner Simpson's arrival with the words: "On the tee, Bubba Watson."
(Editing by Ossian Shine)