By Larry Fine
BETHESDA, Maryland (Reuters) - South Korea's Kim Kyung-tae patiently shot an impressive two-under-par 69 to join the hunt in Thursday's opening round of the U.S. Open, buoyed by the success of other Asians.
Kim, whose three Japan Tour victories last year lifted him into the world's top 50, said his calmness with the putter paid off in his U.S. Open debut at Congressional Country Club.
"I felt like it was going to be a difficult course, so I tried not to rush. I tried to slow down. That's why I made lots of putts today," he told reporters. "That's why I can make a good score today."
Kim made the cut at the Masters after opening with 70-75 before finishing tied for 44th, which he said had given him confidence.
"After I made the cut at the Masters, I had more confidence to play golf," he said. "After that I played really well in Korea and even in the Japan Tour."
Kim finished tied for tenth at the European Tour's South Korean stop on May 1.
His opening 69 at Congressional put him four behind first-round leader Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland.
Kim was just one stroke behind joint-second Yang Yong-eun, Kim's compatriot, who in 2009 out dueled Tiger Woods to win the PGA Championship as Asia's first man to win a golf major.
"After Y.E. Yang won the PGA Championship, I felt like I can do it later on," Kim said.
"And (Japan's Ryo) Ishikawa, he's playing in the Japan Tour. I am playing with those guys in Japan and Korea, and my skills are getting better and better.
"I feel, why can I not do it on the PGA Tour in a major championship?"
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)