Bubble showdown set at Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank as Taylor Montgomery, Peter Uihlein share 54-hole lead
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Written by Zach Dirlam @KornFerryTour
Taylor Montgomery makes birdie on No. 17 in Round 3 at Utah
FARMINGTON, Utah – The final pairing Sunday at the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank will feature Taylor Montgomery and Peter Uihlein, both of whom would secure a PGA TOUR card if they come away with a victory. The two are 29th and 30th, respectively, in the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour points standings, with a mere 10 points separating them. After 54 holes at Oakridge Country Club, Montgomery and Uihlein find themselves tied atop the leaderboard at 18-under par.
Montgomery came within a stroke of the course record Saturday evening, but settled for a career-low 9-under 62 after a three-putt bogey at the par-4 18th. Uihlein shook off a double bogey at the par-4 10th and rallied to a third consecutive 6-under 65 with an eagle and two birdies in his final four holes.
Montgomery, a Las Vegas native, birdied the par-4 first, drained a 15-footer for eagle at the par-5 second, and birdied the par-3 fourth to play his first four holes at 4-under par. On the back side, Montgomery birdied Nos. 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, and 17 to flirt with the course record.
“I hit a lot of good shots today with wedges and some irons,” Montgomery said. “Yesterday I didn’t hit it as well and still shot 5-under. Today I hit it a lot better, and I knew it was going to be a good one if I could get it around the hole. I changed my irons out this week. The 6- and 7-iron were the biggest difference. It’s been hurting me this whole year. This week has been really good with a 6- or 7-iron. It saved me probably five to six shots this week alone.”
Irons were not the only thing Montgomery changed this week. The University of Nevada-Las Vegas alum has his father, Monte, the general manager of Shadow Creek Golf Course, caddying for him. Montgomery wanted a little vacation time in Colorado, and finally took it when the Korn Ferry Tour was idle last week. With the two traveling together, the caddie swap made sense for Montgomery.
“Just rode four-wheelers and got away from golf a little bit. I think it’s helped a lot,” Montgomery said. “He caddied for me last year in a TaylorMade event at Pebble Beach. But he didn’t have to do much; he rode in a cart the whole time. I’m surprised he’s made it this far. I think it’s because I’m playing well. A little adrenaline rush for him.”
This season is Montgomery’s first on the Korn Ferry Tour, and he’s been just outside the winner’s circle on two occasions. There a T2 at the 2020 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship last August, then a loss in a three-man playoff at the 2021 LECOM Suncoast Classic this past February.
Uihlein, on the other hand, has already won on the Korn Ferry Tour this season, taking home the MGM Resorts Championship at Paiute this past April. The win was a key moment for Uihlein, who earned full membership and the option to choose whether to play the Korn Ferry Tour, or wait for his priority number to be called at the coinciding PGA TOUR event.
After 12 PGA TOUR starts, Uihlein determined last month the most sensible pathway to a TOUR card was through the Korn Ferry Tour. This week is only his 17th start on Tour this season, but he’s made the most of them with a win, a solo second at the 2021 Chitimacha Louisiana Open presented by MISTRAS this past March, and two other top-10s.
For perspective, the only players ranked 86th or higher in the Korn Ferry Tour points standings with fewer than 20 starts this season are Uihlein and Will Zalatoris (eighth with 16 starts).
“Limbo,” Uihlein said Friday, describing the feeling of playing both tours. “Before (winning Vegas), I couldn’t just play down here when I wanted to if I was in a PGA TOUR event. After Detroit – I missed the cut (at Rocket Mortgage Classic) – I made a decision to focus out here and try to get my (PGA TOUR) card that way. It’s tough. I’m dealing with two years of points. It’s put me in a very difficult position, but I’ve been fortunate when I’ve played down here, I’ve played well.”
Uihlein tumbled out of a tie for the lead and into a deep pack of chasers following his double bogey at the 514-yard 10th, far and away the statistically toughest hole this week. The Oklahoma State University alum tried to hit a cut and pulled his drive out of bounds. Uihlein drew the second tee shot, salvaged double, and countered it with a tap-in eagle at the par-5 15th.
“Just hit a loose drive on No. 8. Stubbornly tried to hit the same shot on No. 10, and same result,” Uihlein said. “Then was able to battle in. I felt like from No. 11 on, if I could give myself looks at birdie, I could convert at least three or four of them. That was my thought process after No. 10. I was able to execute some good short wedges.”
Tight wedge shots into Nos. 16 and 17 led to two more birdies and pulled the 31-year-old Uihlein even with the 26-year-old Montgomery.
When Uihlein won in Las Vegas earlier this year, he carried a one-shot lead into the final round, played the first seven holes at 4-under par for a sizable lead, and held on down the stretch as windy conditions led to higher scores. Uihlein won by four strokes.
This time around, Uihlein knows he will not have the luxury of building a lead with pars. Not with Oakridge Country Club playing more than two strokes under par this week. And not with Montgomery gunning for a PGA TOUR card alongside him.
“Vegas, when I had a lead, my mindset was to shoot the lowest score,” Uihlein said. “Guys are going to make birdies. I’m going to go out, try to shoot as low as I can, and hope that’s enough.”
Final-round pairings will run from 7:50 a.m. through 2 p.m. local time off the first tee.