Mark O'Meara, runner-up in last year's Kemper Open and advertised as being in this year's field, never signed the player commitment sheet and will not be playing in the PGA Tour event this week at Bethesda's Congressional Country Club.

"It is not his fault that his name was released as expected to play," said Don Ruhter, a Kemper representative. "Technically, he never signed the commitment sheet, although we had plenty of indications that he intended to play. I feel bad about it. It was a mistake that was made in good faith based on our discussions with him. We certainly didn't intend to mislead anybody"

Ruhter said a misunderstanding arose after O'Meara orally told the advertising director for Kemper (Steve Fine) in late January that he intended to play in the tournament.

"Again in early April, he taped interviews for D.C.-area television and radio reporters, saying that he would love to win the tournament," Ruhter said.

"He never had to say that he wasn't coming, because he had never signed the commitment sheet to indicate that he was coming. It's my fault for releasing his name, not his."

O'Meara, who lives in Escondido, Calif., could not be reached for comment.

Officially withdrawing yesterday were John Cook, David Frost, Allen Miller and Tom Woodard.

Andy Bean, Peter Jacobsen and two-time Kemper champion Craig Stadler were among the bigger names who appeared yesterday to practice and familiarize themselves with Congressional.

Jacobsen, fresh from a tied-for-24th finish at the Memorial, said: "I wouldn't call Congressional a fun course. This is more of a challenge, to see if you can keep things together. There are a lot of blind shots to greens. It's a test of length and accuracy, and you're not going to get everything to go your way on this course."

Bean is the type of long, high hitter who might win here.

He three-putted the final hole here two years ago to miss a five-way playoff for the title, won by Fred Couples. The big former University of Florida player did not play the Kemper last year because his wife was having a baby. Bean finished third on the money list last year, $422,995.

"I just haven't been consistent this year," he said. "I'm not really playing bad, but I have to get it to where I am scoring again. I have to make a couple of putts at the right time."

The field of 156 will be complete after eight spots are filled today with qualifying at two area courses. Four spots are available at open qualifying at Lakewood, and four more are up for grabs at Middle Atlantic PGA member qualifying at Poolesville. Local players in the field so far are Marty West, Lon Kinney and Gary Marlowe (sponsors' exemptions) and Buddy Peoples (Poor Robert's qualifier winner).