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Writer defends reporting Wie

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PALM DESERT, Calif. -- Michael Bamberger, a senior writer with Sports Illustrated, watched intently as Michelle Wie took a penalty drop from an unplayable lie during the third round of the Samsung World Championship.

Shortly afterward, he paced off the distance and determined Wie had dropped her ball closer to the hole, a two-stroke penalty. Bamberger's decision to report the incident to a rules official led to Wie's disqualification and put him under scrutiny as to whether he should have acted as an arbiter.

"To me, cheating implies intent. I think she was just careless," Bamberger said Monday. "I feel strongly I did the right thing."

Bamberger's actions took him beyond a journalist's role of observing and reporting, according to Bob Steele, senior ethics faculty member at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.

"If lives are at risk, and the journalist is the only one who can intervene, that's different from citing a rules violation by an athlete," Steele said. "We should report that as part of our journalism. We should not be the whistle-blower who is going to the authorities."

Bamberger waited until late in Sunday's weather-delayed round to approach rules officials, a fact Wie caddie Greg Johnston pointed out to him in a heated exchange outside the media tent. Wie's infraction occurred at the par-5 seventh Saturday, so Bamberger still had 11 holes to report it.

Had he done that, officials would have had an opportunity to confront Wie and assess a two-stroke penalty before she signed her third-round scorecard. There were three rules officials at the 20-player event. Typically, there are five to six officials at full-field events.

"I can totally understand why people who aren't reporters would make that point. It didn't work for me," Bamberger said. "I could never, as a reporter, see going to the police first rather than asking the subject about it."

Bamberger did ask Wie about the drop after Saturday's round. "It was not on the borderline," she had said.

He was not convinced, and after discussing the matter with SI golf editor Jim Herre, spoke with LPGA rules official Robert O. Smith.

Bamberger's background suggests he understood the particulars of Wie's improper drop, including that her infraction was a correctable mistake. He was a caddie on the PGA Tour for a few seasons in the mid-1980s and briefly on the European Tour in the early '90s. This year he caddied for British Amateur champion Stuart Wilson in The Masters and wrote about the experience.

"The decision was difficult," he said. "You don't want to be part of the story. The goal is not to be, yet sometimes it happens."

Jane Singer, associate professor at the University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said Bamberger saw something ethically wrong and put his role as a person above his job as a reporter.

"He can't help that he saw it. If he doesn't take action, he's kind of complicit in her action," Singer said.

Wie forfeited $53,126 and her pro debut will be remembered for a rules dispute rather than a fourth-place finish.

"If I did it again, I would still do that because it looked right to me," she said. "But I learned my lesson. I'm going to call a rule official every single time."

Contributing: Jim Halley

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