Utah’s three entrants in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Utah Championship haven’t fared so well thus far, with two golfers missing the cut and the other sitting well off the lead heading into Sunday’s final round at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington.
So how about we adopt Taylor Montgomery, the co-leader after three rounds, as an honorary Utahn for the week. After all, he’s won a big Utah tournament, the Sand Hollow Open, twice, has competed in the Provo Open, played a few rounds in St. George, and is staying at his uncle’s house in Riverton this week.
The 26-year-old Las Vegas native fired a 9-under-par 62 Saturday to vault into the lead at 18-under 195 along with Peter Uihlein, who has been splitting his time between the Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour this year. First-round co-leader Joshua Creel is a shot back at 196, while Englishman Callum Tarren stands at 197 and second-round leader Bobby Bai is tied at 198 with Nick Cole.
For Montgomery it would be a life-changing event if he were to win Sunday as he completes his first full season on the Korn Ferry Tour. Taking the $108,000 first prize would solidify his Top 25 status and earn him his PGA Tour card for next season. It would also make him a winner for the first time.
“I’ve been a loser the last two years, so it would be nice to get one under my belt,” he said with a smile.
Montgomery played collegiately at UNLV and turned pro soon after, playing where he could, including the Sand Hollow Open in Hurricane in 2018 and 2019 and at the Provo Open in 2019, when he finished in a tie for eighth.
“It was a really fun round. I hit a lot of good shots today and I knew it would be a low one if I could get it around the hole and I putted really well.” — Taylor Montgomery
He earned a spot on the Korn Ferry Tour thanks in part to a qualifying round in St. George and did well in 2020. He was in the top 25 at the end of the season, which would have earned him a spot on the PGA Tour, except that due of the shortened COVID-19 season, the PGA decided to make it an 18-month season, including 2021 events with those of 2020.
Montgomery came into the Utah tourney at No. 29 on the points list. After vacationing in Colorado last week, he decided to use a caddy he knows well and his father, Monte, has been on his bag this week.
Following rounds of 67 and 66 and starting the day in a tie for 10th place, Montgomery got off to a hot start with a birdie at the first hole and an eagle at the second. A birdie at the fourth hole put him to 4-under, where he made the turn. His putter heated up on the back nine with birdies at 11, 12, 13, 15, 16 and 17.
He was in good shape to shoot a 61, but his drive at 18 went into the right rough and he left himself with a 75-foot putt when he hit the green. It ended up 5 feet to the right and his par putt lipped out.
“It was a really fun round,” Montgomery said. “I hit a lot of good shots today and I knew it would be a low one if I could get it around the hole and I putted really well.”
The 31-year-old Uihlein is a former U.S. Amateur champion who has played in 88 PGA Tour events over the past five years, earning more than $2.5 million. He made a decision last month to finish his season on the Korn Ferry Tour to earn his way back up to the big tour, and he stands at No. 30 currently.
Utah’s Patrick Fishburn, who is trying to earn a spot on next year’s Korn Ferry Tour by moving from No. 82 into the top 75, shot a 3-under-par 68, but was only able to move up one spot to a tie for 55th place at 205.
Fishburn, who had to make a birdie on his final hole Friday to make the cut, had three front-nine birdies and added birdies at 10 and 15 on the back nine before bogeying No. 16.
The former BYU golfer finished in a tie for 24th in the Utah Championship in 2018 at 269 when he was playing on a sponsor’s exemption, and last year he finished in a tie for 36th at 271.
Utah’s two other golfers in the tournament, Farmington’s Daniel Summerhays and Draper’s Rhett Rasmussen, both missed the cut Friday after posting 2-under par scores.
Mike Sorensen is a Deseret News contributor.