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Simpson banking on home comforts at Quail Hollow

(Reuters) - Former U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson is banking on home advantage at this week's $6.9 million Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina to help him reverse a run of poor form in his last six PGA Tour starts.

The 28-year-old American, who lives about a mile away from the clubhouse at Quail Hollow Club, made a barn-storming start to the 2013-14 season with four successive top-10s, including a victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

However, Simpson has mainly struggled over the past three months, and has missed two cuts in his last six appearances on the U.S. circuit with a best strokeplay finish of joint 47th.

"I've got to tell myself all the time, it's a game where you go in waves," Simpson, whose best finish at Quail Hollow was in 2012 when he placed fourth, said while preparing for Thursday's opening round. "Jimmy Walker's super hot right now. He's playing incredible golf. Maybe the best of anybody in the world."

Fellow American Walker has won a season-high three times on the 2013-14 PGA Tour.

"Then you take a guy like Tiger Woods who has been the best player forever, and he even goes through the low slumps," Simpson told reporters.

"So all that to say, I'm not too worried. I never get too down. It gets frustrating, but it's nice to be able to play every week. What we do is we get opportunities every week to start playing good again."

Simpson, who clinched his fourth PGA Tour title at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October by a commanding six shots, knows every inch of Quail Hollow where he spends a lot of time practising when he is back at home.

"I know different wind directions, pin placements," said the American, whose world ranking has slipped to 29th from a career-high fifth following his U.S. Open triumph in 2012.

"I think it hurt me the first couple years here. I put too much pressure on myself, but I'm not putting any pressure on myself this year.

"It's more just I know that, hey, you know this golf course as good as anybody. So use that to your advantage."

Simpson faces a strong challenge at Quail Hollow this week where the high-quality field includes players such as reigning U.S. Open champion Justin Rose, 2010 winner Rory McIlroy and five-times major winner Phil Mickelson.

American left-hander Mickelson and Englishman Rose will tee off Thursday in a star-studded grouping along with former world number one Lee Westwood while Simpson has been paired with compatriot Zach Johnson and South African Ernie Els.

Little known American Derek Ernst will defend the title he won last year as a rookie after a sudden-death playoff with Englishman David Lynn.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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