Rose struck first against Lawrie, the 1999 Open Championship winner bogeying the short third, while Denmark's Thomas Björn, conqueror of Tiger Woods at the same stage a year ago, instantly dropped a stroke to trail Italian Francesco Molinari.
Yang was ahead again when he birdied the seventh and McDowell's double bogey on the 476 yard ninth meant he turned two down.
Rose bogeyed to lose the fourth and his match with Lawrie remained all square after six, while 2010 winner Ian Poulter shared the first three holes with Korean Bae Sang-moon, Bjorn hit back to lead Molinari by one after four and Scot Martin Laird's opening bogey left him one down to Spaniard Alvaro Quiros.
McDowell birdied the 219 yard 12th to be only one down once more, but reaching the green in two at the long next was not enough to put him on level terms as Yang made a nine footer for a matching birdie.
Rose fell two behind with back-to-back bogeys on seven and eight, Poulter was one down after seven, Laird still one down after four and Robert Rock, in the field thanks to beating Woods and the world's top four in Abu Dhabi last month, struck first against Adam Scott, but lost the second and third.