Zach Miller and Martin Piller are merely trying to survive for another year on the PGA Tour. Those vastly different goals can be reached if all three continue playing as well as they did in the first round of the McGladrey Classic on Thursday, at the Sea Island Golf Club Seaside Course.
Simpson and Miller both shot 7-under-par 63 to share the lead of the next-to-last Tour event this season, while Piller bogeyed the 18th hole to fall into a third-place tie with Scott McCarron and Billy Horschel at 6-under 64.
Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera and 2010 British Open champion Louis Oosthuizen are among 10 players who are tied at 5-under on a day when 77 players (more than 60 percent of the field) broke par and were in the 60s on a Seaside Course softened by weeks of rain before the tournament.
Tournament host Davis Love III, with his son Dru caddying, shot 69.
Simpson led the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup points list through most of the Tour Playoffs, then lost out on a chance to win the FedEx Cup Championship to Bill Haas with 73 in the final round of the Tour Championship at Atlanta.
The goal remaining for Simpson is to win the Tour money title. He's in second, a bit more than $68,000 behind Luke Donald. Since Donald is playing the rest of his golf this season on the European PGA Tour, Simpson has his destiny in his own hands and he got off to a fine start with a round that he called "easy, breezy."
Simpson balanced some off-target tee shots by hitting 14 greens and needing only 26 putts. He birdied four of six holes on the front nine, his back. "I've had two weeks off and I'm rested," he said. "I had a fresh mind and I played well."
Simpson is one of four two-tournament winners on the Tour this season, and the player of the year race is still wide-open. Winning the money title might help his chances in balloting by the Tour membership, and Simpson said winning the Arnold Palmer Trophy that comes with it would be a special bonus for a Wake Forest player.
"There's no way I can play this golf tournament without thinking about the money title," he said. "I'm thinking about it every day. But I'm not over every shot thinking 'this is for the money title.'"
Simpson already has earned nearly $6 million this year. Contrast his goal with that of rookies Miller and Piller, who are trying to break recent slumps and get enough money to keep their Tour cards.
Miller has missed eight of his past nine cuts and his past six. Piller missed six of his past eight before tying for 60th last week at the Frys.com Open. Miller is 146th on the money list and Piller is 202nd.
"You miss six in a row and it's hard to keep going," said Miller, another product of Stanford. "I'm learning how to keep happy, regardless of the scores. If fun was based on golf scores, it would be pretty rough."
McCarron, playing on a sponsor invitation, birdied his last three holes. Horschel birdied three of his last five.