FARMINGTON — Taylor Montgomery isn't from Utah, but the 26-year-old golfer from Las Vegas knows the Beehive State as well as anyone else in the Utah Championship.
Between his father caddying on his bag and an uncle offering a room in his house for the weekend, Montgomery has been right at home in the state where he's already won a pair of Sand Hollow Open titles, went to Q-School in the St. George area, and now leads the Korn Ferry Tour's annual stop in the state.
Montgomery carded 9-under-par 62 to finish tied for first at 18-under at Oakridge Country Club, setting up a showdown for medalist honors Sunday afternoon just six hours up the road from where he grew up.
"I'm just hoping they put a Korn Ferry event at Sand Hollow one day," joked Montgomery, who also finished top-10 in the 2019 Provo Open and sat out part of the 2020 season following a positive test for COVID-19.
Two years removed from his most recent St. George conquest, Montgomery brought a little Sand Hollow to Farmington, where he'll contend for his first Korn Ferry Tour win Sunday.
"I've been a loser the last two years here, and haven't won an event out here," said Montgomery, who is staying with an uncle that lives in Riverton while his father, Monte, caddies for him. "It would be nice to get one under my belt."
The former UNLV golfer opened at 3-under after two with an eagle on the par-5, 565-yard second role before shooting 32 on the front side. He followed that up with 30 on the back, including runs of three consecutive birdies twice on the back nine.
Montgomery is currently tied with Peter Uihlein, who shot his third-straight round at 6-under 65 to go one stroke up on Joshua Creel atop the leaderboard. The two co-leaders will tee off in the final group Sunday at 2 p.m. MT.
Excelling in Utah is nothing new for Montgomery, who has won back-to-back Sand Hollow Open titles in St. George to jumpstart his professional career. The 2019 title earned him an exemption to the Utah Championship back in June 2019, where he shot 1-over 143 in two days of work at Oakridge.
In three partial seasons on the Korn Ferry Tour, Montgomery has amassed $263,303 in earnings, with 33 of his 39 events played coming in the 2020-21 combined season. That includes 12 top-25 finishes, four in the top 10, and a pair of second-place finishes that has the Southern Nevada native currently ranked 29th on the tour's official points list.
The winners' portion of the purse at the Utah Championship sits at $103,000, with a total purse of $600,000. Montgomery could jump as high as 15th in the Korn Ferry Tour rankings with a win.
But Uihlein, who rallied after a double-bogey on the par-5, 514-yard 10th hole to regain a share of the lead, won't make it easy.
"This tour, if you're not shooting five or six-under, you're going to get lapped," he said. "If you aren't precise, you're going to make bogeys, and bogeys out here will completely destroy you."
Montgomery played hole Nos. 11-17 at 6-under, including a run of three consecutive birdies on the 15th, 16th and 17th holes that included a long birdie putt before heading to the 18 tee box.
"I hit some good shots, Montgomery said. "I changed out all my irons this week. It's been hurting me all year, and this week has been really good; I think my 6 and 7 iron have saved me five or six shots alone.
"If you get it in the fairway, you can give yourself some wedges and putts inside of 10 feet."
Former BYU golfer Patrick Fishburn moved up Saturday after shooting his second 3-under 68 of the tournament. The Fremont High product carded five birdies with a pair of bogeys to finish at 8-under to finish inside the top-60 ahead of Sunday's final round.
Fishburn sits 10 shots off Montgomery's lead, but just four strokes from the top 20.
Fishburn, who birdied No. 18 Friday to make the cut, will tee off at 9:30 a.m. Sunday, hoping for a solid round that will help the 82nd-ranked golfer on the tour maintain his status for next season. The top 75 after next week's Pinnacle Bank Championship near Omaha, Nebraska, qualify for the tour playoffs, a three-tournament postseason that concludes Aug. 30 through Sept. 5 at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in Victoria, Indiana.
He's in the right place to do it, too. Fishburn has just three better performances since the 2018 Utah Championship, when he finished tied for 24th, including a T4 finish at the Country Club de Bogota Championship in February 2020.
"I try not to think about that; I've been there for two years," Fishburn said after Thursday's opening round. "It's just all in my hands if I go out and play — then it'll take care of itself. It comes down to one shot at a time, like everyone always says. But it's all I can do, and the rest will take care of itself.
"It's been a lot of fun, for sure. I get to play golf for a living, and play golf each week at some great courses. It's certainly some long weeks on the road, but it's what all of us wanted to do our entire lives. It's a blessing for all of us."
Montgomery finished with a bogey on the par-4, 442-yard 18th hole, the casualty of a wayward tee shot and a lip-out par putt in front of a packed grandstand filled with members and guests at the Utah-based country club in Farmington.
But even that could hardly derail his overall enthusiasm for one of his best rounds on Tour.
"That's just golf; sometimes you do some good stuff, sometimes you do some bad stuff. I'm still happy with 9-under; I would've been happier to be at 10-under, but it's alright."