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Local star practices patience on the Tour

When Webb Simpson tees it up next week in the Sony Open in Hawaii to start his third season on the PGA Tour, he will carry with him, among other things, a sense of contentment.

Simpson, a Raleigh native and former Wake Forest star, moved with his wife, Dowd, to Charlotte last fall. She was kind enough to let Simpson play a tournament in California during the actual moving process, and as the 2011 season begins, Simpson has plenty about which to be excited.

"She said, 'Go play golf. I'll move us,'" said Simpson, whose wife (Dowd Keith) is from Charlotte.

The couple's first child is due in February, he's happy in his new home, and he likes the direction his game is headed. After an inconsistent 2010 season, Simpson tied for fourth in Las Vegas last November, reinforcing the belief that he's close to a breakthrough moment on tour.

"One of the most priceless pieces of advice I've gotten came from (Wake Forest golf coach Jerry) Haas who told me you don't have to get better overnight. You just need to continue to get better," Simpson said.

"If you do that, you're going in the right direction and I feel like I'm doing that."

Simpson came out of Wake Forest with glittering credentials. He was a three-time All-American, set the scoring record in the ACC championship, played on the 2007 Walker Cup team and won the Southern Amateur, among other achievements.

He had four top-10 finishes on the tour in 2009 and two more last year after battling through a six-tournament stretch of missed cuts midway through the season. In Justin Timberlake's Las Vegas event last fall, Simpson missed a playoff by one shot after a late double bogey.

Simpson has struggled at times with accuracy off the tee. He ranked 170th in total driving (length and accuracy) last year and knows he needs to hit more than 60 percent of fairways to be in contention more often.

Playing primarily out of Carolina Golf Club, Simpson likes the fact he can take direct flights home on Sunday nights, simplifying his travel, especially with a child on the way. He has also worked on viewing his career with a wide lens.

"I'm a big believer in being patient and letting your time come," Simpson said. "That doesn't mean I'm just going to wait on winning. There are things I can do to make the process quicker.

"But I'm just 25. It's easy to look at guys like Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson and see what they've done, but they're in the late 30s and early 40s. They've been out there for 20 years.

"I'm not putting any pressure on myself to win. If I put in the work, it will just be a matter of time. If it's this year, great. If it's next year, that's great, too."

CHIP SHOTS: For the eighth straight year, the three-hole finish at Quail Hollow ranked as the toughest finishing stretch on the PGA Tour. Beyond that, it ranked as the toughest of any three-hole stretches on the tour.

Rory McIlroy's 42-foot, eight-inch putt to cap his Sunday 62 at Quail Hollow last May was the third-longest putt made by a tournament winner on the closing hole since 2003. Only Padraig Harrington and Adam Scott made longer putts to close out wins in that time.

Cydney Clanton of Rockwell and Patty Moore of Charlotte have been named players of the year in their respective divisions by the Carolinas Golf Association. Clanton, a senior at Auburn and ranked third in the national women's amateur rankings, was named women's player of the year while Moore was named senior women's player of the year for a record seventh straight time.

Raleigh's Paul Simson was named senior player of the year after becoming the first to ever win the U.S, British and Canadian amateurs in the same year while Fayetteville's David Chung, a U.S. Amateur finalist, was men's player of the year.

Fort Mill Golf Club has been named a certified Audubon cooperative sanctuary, one of 804 courses in the world with the recognition. It honors the club's work on water conservation, reduction of chemical use and wildlife management, among other things.

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