Danny Lee (70) is in second place. "Putts that, you know, I'm just trying to get them close are going in, so I just kind of rode the momentum and kept going".
Lee played bogey-free golf - Justin Thomas was the only other one to do so Sunday - in windy conditions in the afternoon.
Despite water here and there, the challenging bunkering and the possibilities for quirky bounces off the many mounds, there were times when Simpson looked like he was just showing off. "If it's windy tomorrow like it was today and you're not very sharp, you're going to struggle around here".
Lee was at 204, a score that would have led The Players in all but three of the years since it moved to May in 2007.
Mcilroy again responded with a birdie following a nice approach to eight feet at 14, and hauled himself back to the projected cut line with another gain at 16, but his tee shot to 17 pitched on the front bank next to the bunker and rolled back into the water.
Simpson started with an 8-foot birdie.
This isn't forgone - it never is when trap doors like the island-green 17th hole loom for any would-be champion - but anything short of a Simpson boat race certainly feels farfetched after three dominant days.
Woods admitted that after reaching 8 under through 12 holes, he felt a course-record 62 was within reach. The 24-year-old would carry the momentum into Day 3 as he made a charge.
Meanwhile, Tiger Woods had his best round on the Stadium Course, playing the final six holes in one over for a 65.
"Overall on the whole day I just hit a lot of quality shots and a 65 was probably the highest I could have shot".
"Eighteen holes, I have a lot of work to do", said Simpson, who last won on Tour in 2014 and in eight starts at The Players has never finished better than 15th. He'll enter Sunday with an even bigger lead. With a front pin in the bowl, he hit sand wedge and listened to thousands of fans surrounding the green cheer as the ball trickled down the slope to 3 feet for birdie. A day after making just one putt longer than 6 feet, he missed only one inside 13 feet in the third round. Jason Dufner (66), Jimmy Walker (70), reigning Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele (71), Australia's Jason Day (71) and Charl Schwartzel of South Africa are tied for fourth another stroke back at 207. "But a big thing is that I'm comfortable on this golf course".
And when you are playing this well, then you are really having a one to one discussion with the golfing gods.
The card showed Simpson's cup-rattling, 30-foot birdie putt off the fringe of the par-4 15th hole was his eighth of the day (to go with an eagle at No. 2), and his fifth in a row.
Woods, a 79-times victor on the PGA Tour, used his irons with precision and wielded a hot putter to record his lowest numerical score on the PGA Tour since 2015.
He hit 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation. It also marked his lowest score of the season, his best since a 65 at the 2015 Wyndham Championship and his lowest score to par since the 2013 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.