The meek continued to inherit the swamp today.

The greatest field of touring golf pros on earth has gathered here this week to play for $500,000 on a monstrously tough course that was paid for out of their own collective pockets.

So who's leading the Tournament Players Championship at the halfway point?

Why, Tim Simpson and Scott Simpson, of course.

And Lyn Lott and Vance Heafner.

If it weren't for Hale Irwin, who birdied three of his last four holes to gain a share of the lead with the aforementioned worthies at six-under-par 138, this TPC leader board might look like the second flight of the Sawgrass member-guest.

Also among the top dozen are Brad Bryant, Bob Eastwood and Roger Maltbie. The only "names" lurking near the lead were Craig Stadler (139), George Burns (140), Bruce Lietzke (141), Tom Kite (142) and Bill Rogers and Jerry Pate (143).

So far, this new, 6,857-yard Pete Dye creation has brought out the worst in the best and the best in the worst.

Even the weather won't cooperate. Again today, the air was warm and relatively still, allowing good scores, including a 66 by Tim Simpson, who played with a Ben Hogan hat and Sam Snead's advice. Oh, where are the winds of Sawgrass, now that they're needed?

Adding to the day's annoyance was an impenetrable early morning fog that delayed play for 2 hours and 16 minutes. At sunset, 63 players were still on the course, including Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus, who were one and two strokes over par, respectively, after 27 holes. The second-round strandees will resume play at 8:15 a.m. Saturday, fog permitting, then play their third rounds.

'Tis the famous who have suffered here, while the rank and file have scratched their heads and been unable to account for their eminence.

Lee Trevino, for instance, ran off the 18th green at a healthy jog, never bothering to sign his scorecard (and thus disqualifying himself). He had a plane to catch and didn't think his 82-76--158 total was worth an autograph.

Explanations varied for the bizarre composition of the leader board in this tournament, whose very premise is to make the cream rise.

"On these (wildly undulating) greens, there's a lot of luck involved out there," offered Scott Simpson, the only one of the leaders, other than Irwin, ever to win a tournament (the '81 Western Open). "Minature golf is almost what we're doin' out there.

"I just barely managed to survive . . . On one hole, I hit it in the water, took off my shoes and socks to hit it, and had my caddie look out for water moccasins."

Irwin, who said his round of 68 included "six birdies, two bogeys, two alligators and one (black) snake," thought it possible that the reason renowned veterans were relatively absent from contention might be that, "Those of us who have been around for 10 or 15 years don't have the advantage of local course knowledge that we might usually have. Here, everybody starts equal. Nobody knows how to play this course yet."

However, Irwin also pointed out that the shots this course often requires are the type no man has ever practiced. "Everything around the greens is pure imagination . . . you look at these hellacious slopes and breaks and say, 'Let's see. What do I do now . . .' "

Irwin had one memorable escape that may loom more important late Sunday afternoon. On the 14th fairway, his caddie took his hand, eye and mind off Irwin's bag, which toppled toward the ball. Clubs poured out of the bag. A rule states that for every club that hits the ball--no matter how or for what reason--a stroke is assessed.

"I was watching the whole thing almost like it was in slow motion," said Irwin. "The clubs looked like serpents. Two of them forked at the last instant and ended up on either side of the ball. Each missed by, maybe, an inch."

What did he say to his caddie?

"There was no subsequent conversation," said Irwin. "The eyes told it all."

Weird tales have been the rule so far. Most improbable, perhaps, has been the Lott and Haefner pairing. On Thursday, they and Woody Blackburn combined for an amazing best ball of 63. Today, they did it again.

"We just don't seem to be having any troubles at all," said Lott, who is 150th on the money list. "Maybe it helps to be in a hot group. Watching them chip and pitch well puts you in a good scoring frame of mind."

Tim Simpson and his 66 were the oddity of the day. Except for one 20-foot birdie putt, he didn't make a putt longer than the length of a club all day. But he did hole a chip shot from a pot bunker and knocked a fairway wood to two feet on the 497-yard 16th hole for "a kick-in eagle."

Simpson, who has just adopted a Hogan-style cap, cornered Sam Snead in the clubhouse during the fog-in for a long discussion of exotic theory. Tim Simpson is often mistaken for the considerably more successful Scott Simpson, who was ranked 24th and 34th in money winnings the previous two seasons and is 12th on the current list.

"I always tease Scott and tell him, 'The wrong Simpson's up there on the leader board again this week,' " said Tim Simpson. "Well, Tuesday night, we were the last two players on the practice green and he said to me, 'Let's get both of the Simpsons up on the leader board this week.' "

No one could have guessed that they would share the halfway lead.

But then, no one could have guessed anything else that has happened here so far this week.