It is not insurmountable, but it is a gap that no one in pursuit can erase without Simpson's participation.
Simpson's third round was electric from the start. Simpson splashed out of the sand and hit a 100-foot shot that tracked into the hole for a magical eagle.
Woods carded two birdies and one bogey in a second round of 71 to finish one under par, with the projected cut fluctuating between one and two under.
That pushed his lead over the rest of the field to a preposterous eight strokes, but it shrank slightly coming home. Simpson then got up-and-down to set up a short birdie putt at No. 16 and he strolled to the 17th tee with the unthinkable in play: a 59 at Pete Dye's devilish den that had never yielded a score lower than 63 in the past.
Jason Day, among those at 9-under 207, had a four-shot lead when he won The Players two years ago. Danny Lee, who was among those tied for second at the outset of the third round, is alone in second following a round of two-under par 70. On 18, it was a bonus to make that putt.
Simpson played his third shot from the drop zone on his way to a humbling double-bogey five. "She doesn't miss many shots at all, if any". That's actually a good sign going into Sunday.
"I was just a touch off today", he said. "All in all, you try and repeat how you're feeling [on all four days]". "I hit a lot of good, quality shots".
Simpson takes a comfortable lead into the final day, but as Woods, Spieth and Dufner showed, a lot can change over the course of 18 holes. But Simpson is the -700 favorite. With a 66, he now finds himself tied for fourth.
This Saturday was always about Sunday. The answers, respectively, are "massive" and "nobody".
"On the first round, the greens are soft and gettable, yesterday was a little tougher but I had one of those magical rounds". That helped him overcome a pair of bogeys to help him move into contention. Here's a look at a few of them.
No player on the PGA Tour has lost a tournament when leading by seven going into the final round. By the end, though, it looked as though Simpson had done the layout of this place.
For the week, he ranks first in fairways hit (34 of 42), second in greens in regulation (45 of 54) and first in strokes gained: putting, the latter being a telling statistic for a player who admits that his professional life took a bad turn when the anchoring ban took the belly putter out of his bag in 2016. Still, D.J. has the most horsepower of the chasers and thus the best shot to upend the leader. "The scoreboard doesn't affect me at all, I'm just out here playing golf and seeing what I can get". He's 24, might be an American superstar and has a chance of making it to Paris for the 2018 Ryder Cup. "We were talking about it throughout the round, all three of us".
"I mean to be eight-under there through 12, realistically I probably could have got a couple more out of it and got to 10 for the day", he said.
World number three Jon Rahm, of Spain, is a further stroke adrift of Day after a 70.
"These guys are going to go low today again", Woods predicted.
Thanks for stopping by.