David Lundstrom is looking for something he calls the "comfort zone." He is hoping to find it at Congressional Country Club this week.

Lundstrom, whose greatest PGA Tour accomplishment is a 17th-place finish at the Doral Open in February, opened with a 68 yesterday and was only two strokes behind the leader, Hale Irwin, at the end of the first round in the Kemper Open. He was in a three-way tie for second.

The comfort zone, quite simply, is where you play your best golf.

"The key," Lundstrom said, "is to keep expanding your comfort zone."

Lundstrom's comfort zone so far has been the mini-tour, a string of small satellite tournaments around the country some players use as training ground for the big Tour. A nine-year veteran, Lundstrom has made a career of mini-tours, never able to make a full-time leap to the PGA Tour.

Lundstrom, 38, is one of those curiously dogged players who continues to make the effort anyway. It has not been particularly profitable. His PGA Tour career earnings amount to $13,850, including $9,379 this year. He is 144th on the money list, with a previous high of $4,472 in 1981.

Lundstrom, who lives in Houston, says he got serious about tournament golf in 1972 after a stint in the Army and one year as an assistant club pro in Mississippi. But he earned playing cards only in 1976, 1978, 1984 and this year. He spent the other five years subsisting primarily on the mini-tour, where he has won 17 events. He says in his best year on the mini-tour, he made $45,000.

"I've had a lot of good first and second rounds on the regular tour," he said. "But I've always been intimidated, by the players, the media, the courses, the competition. If it hadn't been for the mini-tour, I would have given up this golf a long time ago."

For a long time, Lundstrom says, he preferred the mini-tour, where the pressure to make cuts and earn his keep wasn't so great.

Lundstrom had one of his best starts on the Tour ever, making his first four cuts and finishing 17th at Doral. The list of qualifiers is reorganized three times a year, and Lundstrom was moved up to 12th, qualifying him for more tournaments. But he missed the last five cuts before the Kemper.

Before Doral, his best finishes were ties for 25th at the defunct Oklahoma City Open and the Magnolia Classic, both in 1979.

Putting has been one of Lundstrom's weaknesses, but he made a visit to a friend and sometime coach, Frank Stiedle in Biloxi, Miss., earlier this year and that has helped. Stiedle made changes in his putting stroke, advising him to ease up on the wrists and use more of an arm motion.

Lundstrom had five birdies and only one bogey yesterday in his 33-35-68 round. He began his round on the par-5 10th, making an eight-foot putt for birdie. He birdied the par-3 12th with a five-iron that stopped four feet from the pin, then made a 20-foot putt on the par-3 16th.

He bogeyed the fourth when his second shot went over the green, but birdied the par-5 sixth with a 10-footer and finished with another on the par-5 ninth, sinking a 30-foot putt.

"I putted a lot better than I usually do," he said. "I didn't miss the short ones, and I made a couple of long ones. I made some drastic changes in my putting and the ball is coming off better now."

So far, Congressional is quite comfortable, thank you.

"Right now, I'm fine," he said.