Simpson chipped in twice for birdie and shot a five-under-par 67 for a share of the second-round lead with Robert Streb in the
"Playing here quite often, I know where the best places are to miss (the green)," said Simpson, who lives in Charlotte and has played the course countless times.
Simpson knows it will take a lot more big shots over the weekend to win with some of golf's top names lurking behind him.
McIlroy and Mickelson are three shots back. Mickelson had a 66, and McIlroy matched Simpson's 67.
Martin Flores and Patrick Rodgers were tied for third at eight under.
"I know I have to make birdies," Simpson said.
Mickelson made seven Friday.
One day after joking that he "turned a 66 into a 71" in the opening round with some missed opportunities, Mickelson got his 66.
"Right now nobody is turning 66s into 71s better than me," Mickelson joked, so it's nice to finally shoot that 66 and get the score that reflects the way I feel I'm playing."
McIlroy was on his game, too.
The world's top-ranked player said his focus Friday was on eliminating mistakes after an up-and-down 70 the day before. He did just that, posting five birdies and no bogeys. He was never in any real danger of making bogey in what he called a "stress-free round."
“Anytime you can play a round of golf with no bogeys you're doing something right,” said McIlroy, who won the 2010 event for his first
The biggest surprise high on the leaderboard is the 22-year-old Rodgers, a regular on the Web.com Tour who is playing on a sponsor's exemption. He ranks 333rd in the world and has never finished in the top 25 on the PGA Tour.
The tournament was not so kind to some former Wells Fargo champions as
Alison Lee shot a four-under 67 on Friday to take a two-stroke lead in the
The 20-year-old Lee, still a student at UCLA after turning pro in December, had a 9-under 133 total on Kingsmill Resort's River Course. She tied for fourth in the Kia Classic in March in California and has three top-25 finishes in her rookie season.
Australia's Minjee Lee and France's Perrine Delacour were tied for second. The 18-year-old Minjee Lee had a 67, and Delacour shot 68. Minjee Lee turned pro in September after leading Australia to a record comeback victory in Japan in the Women's World Amateur Team Championship.
So Yeon Ryu was at six under after a 69, and Suzann Pettersen, Christina Kim, Jing Yan and Catriona Matthew were another stroke back. Pettersen shot a 65 for the best round of the day, Kim had a 68, and Yan and Matthew shot 67.
Second-ranked Inbee Park was at three under after a 67. She won the North Texas Shootout two weeks ago for her second victory of the year.
First-round leader Joanna Klatten followed her opening 65 with a 75 to drop into a tie for 22nd at two under. Top-ranked Lydia Ko and Canadian teen Brooke Henderson also were in the group at two under. Ko, a two-time winner this season, and Henderson, playing on a sponsor exemption, each shot 69.
Third-ranked No. 3 Stacy Lewis had a 74 to drop to one over.
Defending champion Lizette Salas missed the cut with rounds of 74 and 73. Three-time Kingsmill winner Cristie Kerr also dropped out, shooting 73-76.
Kevin Sutherland and Jeff Maggert both eagled the par-five 11th hole Friday and shared the second-round lead at 10 under in the Regions Tradition in Birmingham, Ala.
Sutherland shot a six-under 66 at Shoal Creek to catch up to Maggert, the opening-round leader in the first of the Champions Tour's five majors. Maggert birdied the final two holes for his second straight 67.
Sutherland is seeking his first Champions Tour victory. He tied for second in Mississippi in March.