Montgomery leaves trash talk behind in Vegas to lead Sony

HONOLULU (AP) — PGA Tour rookie Taylor Montgomery quietly went about his work with a 4-under 66 on Friday for the early lead in the Sony Open, hardly looking like a guy who would willingly trash talk Michael Jordan.

He loves to run his mouth for fun. This golf job is working out pretty good, too.

Montgomery finished in the top 15 at all but one of the PGA Tour events he played in the fall, and he carried it into the new year down from the shores of Waikiki Beach by scrambling his way around Waialae.

He was at 10-under 130, one shot ahead of Hayden Buckley (64) and David Lipsky (66) among the early starters.

Montgomery grew up in Las Vegas and played at UNLV, and it was his time at Shadow Creek that pulled him away from basketball and football into golf. He loved seeing athletes such as Jordan and Jerome Bettis.

He referred to him as “MJ,” and Montgomery was asked what Jordan called him.

“I don't know if I can say that,” he said with a laugh.

Turns out Montgomery was a teenager and caddied for someone Jordan was playing in a high-stakes game at Shadow Creek.

“I was always trash talking to him,” Montgomery said. "He's like, ‘Who the hell is that kid?’ Because I was yapping the whole time. My guy kept chipping in and making putts and hitting it close and he was beating MJ pretty bad. Didn't work out, though.

“The back nine, MJ kind of did MJ stuff.”

Montgomery comes across as polite to a fault, making the Shadow Creek story even more amazing. But his golf is no joke. Having earned his card through the Korn Ferry Tour, he finished third in his inaugural rookie event and has been rolling ever since.

He already is No. 12 in the FedEx Cup and already has made nearly $1.5 million in seven starts of his rookie season.

“I definitely feel like I could win at any time,” Montgomery said. “I hope to do that soon.”

Another picturesque day brought good scoring and very little separation at the top, even with half of the field still playing in the afternoon.

Rory Sabbatini looked to be among them for the longest time, and then it switched in a hurry. He made the turn and had three straight double bogeys — one tee shot that sailed out-of-bounds, shots on the next two holes into the water — shot 41 on the front and was headed toward a missed cut.

The Sony Open is the first full-field event of the year, and only 19 players came over from Maui at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. From the early wave Friday, only one of the top 10 leading players have won on the PGA Tour.

Corey Conners of Listowel, Ont., is tied for 21st at 5-under. Nick Taylor of Abbotsford, B.C., is tied for 58th at 2-under. Adam Svensson of Surrey, B.C., is tied for 74th at 1-under. Mackenzie Hughes of Hamilton, Ont., is tied for 127th at 4-over. Michael Gligic of Burlington, Ont., is tied for 134th at 5-over.

Montgomery is getting by with his putting, making them from everywhere in the opening round and making many of them for par on Friday.

Driving and wedges are his strength. He thought he had a good round with the irons on Thursday, only to look at the statistics and realizing he was in the middle of the pack.

“I'm like, ‘How good are these damn guys with their irons?’ Just an area that I really want to improve,” Montgomery said. “I feel like I can get really good if I start hitting my irons really good. ... I've been working hard on it. Just got to work harder.”

That was a lesson he picked up from another guy he once saw at Shadow Creek — Tiger Woods — though his first encounter with Woods was at a Mexican golf resort.

Woods was in Cabo San Lucas working on a golf course for the Diamante resort — with whom Montgomery has a sponsorship deal — and they were introduced. The meeting was brief, and the message Montgomery took from Woods was meaningful.

“Hard work trumps everything,” Montgomery said.


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Doug Ferguson, The Associated Press