PUEBLO, Colo. – With four days remaining until the Built Ford Tough Series resumes in Tulsa, Oklahoma, PBR.com will take a look at the Top 5 riders in the world standings before the stretch run to the 2017 Built Ford Tough World Finals officially begins.
Today, we look at Jess Lockwood, who is currently fourth in the world standings.
FIRST HALF RECAP: It was a tale of two halves for Lockwood this season. The 19-year-old stormed out of the gate and into the world lead by winning the season-opening Monster Energy Buck Off at the Garden.
Lockwood then won the Frontier Communications Sacramento Clash three weeks later to add to his growing world lead.
He eventually lost the No. 1 ranking to current world leader Eduardo Aparecido and was only within 337.5 points of the world lead when he tore his left groin in February at Iron Cowboy.
Lockwood failed to regain his early-season dominance when he returned to competition in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, five weeks later.
He did ride BC Circular Insanity for 90.25 points, but he would finish the first half in a 3-for-13 slump.
Prior to the injury, Lockwood was 11-for-21 (52.38 percent).
Lockwood finished the first half 14-for-34 (41.18 percent) overall, and he has earned 72.67 percent of his world points with two BFTS victories (New York and Sacrament). Outside of those two wins, Lockwood has only earned world points three other times this year at the BFTS level.
He is currently 865 points behind Aparecido heading into Tulsa.
BEST FIRST HALF PERFORMANCE: After a disappointing 2016 World Finals performance where Lockwood failed to post a single qualified ride, the second-year bull rider proved in New York that no stage was too grand as he went 4-for-4 to win the PBR season-opening Major.
The victory, which he clinched with an 82.25-point ride on Naughty List in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round, earned him a career-high $117,183.33 and a massive 860 points toward the world standings.
Take away Lockwood’s New York victory, and he may not be in the world title picture.
FIRST HALF TOP RIDE: 90.25 points on BC Circular Insanity (Sioux Falls, South Dakota)
LOCKWOOD JOINS VIEIRA ATOP SUMMER LIST: Lockwood tied with Joao Ricardo Vieira for the most qualified rides (17) during the BFTS summer break. Lockwood went 17-for-28 at PBR-sanctioned events and earned the second-most points toward the world standings (372.5).
Not only did Lockwood post a 60-percent riding average, but the Volborg, Montana, bull rider also posted six Top-3 finishes, including a Touring Pro Division victory in Binford, North Dakota.
Lockwood ended the summer by going 4-for-5 combined at the Big Sky, Montana, and Santa Barbara, California, Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour events.
His last ride of the summer was an impressive 90.5 points on Mortimer.
YOUNGEST WORLD CHAMPION: Mike Lee was 21 years and 4 months old when he won the 2004 world title. Lockwood, who turns 20 years old on Sept. 28, has the opportunity to pass Lee and become the youngest World Champion in PBR history this year.
“That would be huge to make history in two things – a World Champion and the youngest – but it won’t be the same without J.B. (Mauney) there. You can’t think about it that way. You have to try and go about winning a world title.”
Lockwood is right in the mix for the 2017 world title despite having to miss five weeks of the first half because of the torn left groin.
The 2016 Rookie of the Year believes his summer momentum can help him shake off the 3-for-12 slump he was amidst at the end of the first half once he had returned from the injury.
“I started off the year strong and then it went downhill there for a little,” Lockwood said. “Now I am feeling great and riding good again. Whenever you can do that carrying that into the second half is a huge confidence boost. I am just riding bulls, having fun and not thinking about anything. That is why it is going so well.”
Lockwood is on pace to break his career-high of 25 qualified rides he had set last season, but his rough finish to the first half actually lowered his riding percentage to 41.48 percent, which is 2.68 points lower than his 43.86-percent average in 2017.
Every PBR World Champion since 2000 has finished the season with a riding percentage of 52 percent or higher.
Lockwood may still be working on some minor adjustments to his riding, but two-time World Champion Justin McBride said you can’t question Lockwood’s desire for winning a gold buckle.
“Jess has been riding good,” McBride said. “You can nitpick his riding here and there if you want, but the one thing you can never question with little Jess is his grit and his effort. He is a tough little kid. He wants to make the whistle. Whether he goes about it the right way all the time or not, he is trying to make the whistle. That is the most important thing.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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