PUEBLO, Colo. - With the first half of the 2017 Built Ford Tough Series now in the rearview mirror, and the stretch run to the 2017 Build Ford Tough World Finals on the horizon, PBR.com is taking a look back at the story so far. The first half of the season was full of history and memorable moments, meaning anything is possible once the BFTS returns to Tulsa, Oklahoma, Aug. 12-13.
Lockwood becomes the King of New York
The start of the 2017 Built Ford Tough Series meant a clean slate for Jess Lockwood. Though Lockwood claimed the 2016 Rookie of the Year title, and a respectable eighth-place finish in the world standings, Lockwood was not happy on the last day of the season.
His dream season had turned into a nightmare by the end, as an injury to his riding hand severely limited him and led to a rideless performance at the 2016 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
So when Lockwood arrived in New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden, he had plenty to prove.
Lockwood went on to win Round 1 with an 87.75-point ride on Dennis the Menace, then he rode the next three bulls he faced to win the season’s first PBR Major.
The first PBR Major victory of his career rocketed Lockwood to the top of the world standings, also a first for him, and made him the man to beat to start 2017.
“I couldn’t be happier. It helps so much having my family here with me. This is so special,” Lockwood said. “This is the greatest thing that ever happened in my career. The points that came with it. The money. My family here. It means a lot.”
Lee finds a second wind in Chicago 15/15 Bucking Battle
2017 marked the 16th professional season for 2004 World Champion Mike Lee, and despite the extra mileage, he looked as fresh as ever when he claimed the victory in the season’s first 15/15 Bucking Battle.
Only three riders covered their bulls in the round, and Lee was able to edge past Eduardo Aparecido when he reached 8 seconds aboard Handsome Jeff for 87.75 points.
Lee had not won a 15/15 Bucking Battle since 2015. He was quick to thank the Brazilians on tour, who had recently welcomed him as a new travelling partner and friend in their tight-knit group.
“I have learned a lot,” Lee said. “Being around these Brazilians. I have learned how to be calm and to enjoy life. Sometimes we forget to do that. We get pretty bored after 15-16 hours in the van, so we talk about everything.
“They are just really good family. That is really important.”
Barbosa puts his strength on display in Chicago
Rubens Barbosa recorded only six qualified rides in the second-half of the 2016 season, and only one at the World Finals. Entering 2017, Barbosa had never finished higher than 23rd in the world standings in his seven-year career. In Chicago, he looked like a champion as he picked up the victory by going 4-for-4.
Barbosa capped his weekend with a 90.25-point ride on Cooper Tires Brown Sugar in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round. It was his first 90-point ride in five years, and it moved him to No. 2 in the world standings.
It was revitalizing to Barbosa, who had put in extra effort during the offseason to come into 2017 in the best shape possible.
“I am dedicating myself more this year,” Barbosa said. “I am working more at home and at the gym. I have some problems with my back because my leg is too short to ride bulls. I broke my leg and I put pins in there and it got short.
“I am very happy this week to get on really good bulls. I have no words to explain. I am just so happy for everything.”
Kolbaba fights back in Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City was a punishing event for the riders as the bulls dominated throughout. Oklahoma City featured only 16 qualified rides over two days and three rounds of competition, the lowest total in the first half of the season.
Derek Kolbaba, though, was not intimidated, and was the only rider to go a perfect 3-for-3 on the way to his first victory of the season. Kolbaba closed out the weekend with a masterful, and career-high, 92-point ride on 2016 World Champion Bull, SweetPro’s Bruiser.
It was a big weekend for Kolbaba, who has put more effort into finishing after ending 2016 with 24 consecutive buckoffs.
“A lot of it this year is having that confidence and just putting out the effort,” Kolbaba said. “I know there were a lot of bull rides last season that came up short at the six or 7 hole. I don’t want to be that guy that is, ‘Oh yeah, he rides great for 7 seconds and then he bucks off.’”
For Kolbaba, maintaining that effort has been key.
“It is having a clear mind this year,” Kolbaba concluded. “I know going in that if I give 110 percent every bull I get on, it is going your way a lot more than it is not.”
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