Charl Schwartzel, South Africa, hits a chip on the seventh hole during the first round of the U.S. Open golf tournament in Pinehurst, N.C., Thursday, June 12, 2014. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Johannesburg - Charl Schwartzel, the top-placed South African after round one of the US Open at Pinehurst, North Carolina, believes he is right in the mix after shooting a level par 70 on Thursday.

The 2011 Masters Champion was lying in 16th place, five shots off the pace set by Germany's Martin Kaymer, who fired a superb five-under 65.

“Any time you're going to shoot even par around this golf course you can be happy about it,” Schwartzel said after his round.

The US Open is renowned for difficult course conditions, with winning scores often around level par after four rounds.

Schwartzel said the conditions on day one were not as brutal as some may have expected.

“You can see they must have been watering the greens a little bit last night and maybe throughout the round a bit, because they were actually really nice to play on.

“I thought that they were still tough, but yet fair. I think that another three level par rounds might not be that far off at the end of the day. So I'm pleased with the way it went.”

The 29-year-old said he was happy with the mental side of his game which was key in making it to the clubhouse on even par.

“The game wasn't as sharp as it's been, to be honest.

“A good positive is the way I kept hanging in there and grinding out some nice pars.

“I took opportunities when I did hit a good shot to make a birdie. So I think that was a positive part about the round.”

With five South Africans in the field, four of them Major winners, it was the lesser-known Garth Mulroy who compiled a handy one-over 71 for a share of 36th. Louis Oosthuizen, 2010 British Open champion, also signed for a 71.

Two-time US Open champion in 2001 and 2004, Retief Goosen, fired a 73 and was tied for 68th.

Ernie Els, meanwhile, made five bogies and a double bogey, offset by three birdies on his way to four over 74. Sharing 88th spot on the leaderboard, the four-time Major winner, together with Goosen, would need to be on their game Friday to have any hope of playing on the weekend.