BIG SKY, Mont. – Smooth Operator stuck his nose through the bucking chute and took a deep breath of the chilly Montana nighttime air into his lungs.
The World Champion Bull contender almost appeared bored as he calmly stood in the bucking chute with Sean Willingham beginning to tie his hand into his bull rope on Friday night at Sage Brush Field during the Big Sky BlueDEF Velocity Tour event.
Smooth Operator barely budged.
He just sat there patiently waiting for his chance to once again prove that he is way past his sub-par performance (41-point bull score) againstGuilherme Marchi three months ago in Billings, Montana, when the 2008 World Champion rode him for 83 points.
Well, point proven.
Smooth Operator elongated himself, turned right and strongly swung his hips in one of his more powerful outs to date and slammed Willingham onto the ground in 3.7 seconds.
“That is a different breed of bulls,” Willingham said. “He wasn’t really that strong. He was just so damn long. He bucked right around to the right into my hand, which is the way I like them, but he pulled me down. He was pretty stout. That is everything you want in a World Champion bucking bull right there.”
Smooth Operator was marked a career-high 47 points and he has averaged 45.67 points per out on the BDVT this summer.
“That bull is just rank,” Berger said. “I don’t know anybody that can ride him the way he bucked today. He is back.”
Willingham is arguably the strongest rider to have attempted Smooth Operator this summer after Chad Berger’s bovine athlete dumped Cody Tyler (46 points) and Wallace de Oliveira (44 points) in Bismarck, North Dakota.
“(Smooth Operator) is in there and he is like I am ready when you are,” Berger said. “He was pretty calm in there just waiting for Sean to nod his head. He looked good.”
Berger admitted before the event on Friday that he was a little nervous about how Smooth Operator would respond from Marchi’s ride in Bismarck, but he also knew time off would help Smooth Operator bounce back.
Along with adding a few hundred pounds to his bull, Berger also has experimented with bucking Smooth Operator out of the right chute this summer.
Smooth Operator was bucked out of the left in Big Sky, but Berger had noticed Smooth Operator getting a bit lazy at times this season.
Berger had Smooth Operator buck out of the right chute at a couple of rodeos this summer.
“I’ve bucked him at a couple of pro rodeos and he has been really good,” Berger said. “We bucked him out of the right-hand delivery for the first time over there in Mandan (North Dakota) and he was really good out of there. I think it is good for him. Gets him out of his routine.”
PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said on Thursday that he believed Smooth Operator would bounce back and become a strong contender once again for the World Champion Bull title.
“I think Smooth Operator will be back at 100 percent and I think he will be really strong,” Lambert said when asked about some of the top storylines for the rest of the season.
Berger plans on next bucking Smooth Operator at the Express Employment Professionals Classic on Aug. 15 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before bringing him to the Jack Daniel’s Music City Knockout – the last PBR Major of the season – the following week.
Smooth Operator has gone 10-1 on the BFTS this season and is averaging 44.66 points per out.
The reigning four-time Stock Contractor of The Year would like to see Smooth Operator get a little more consistent during the stretch run to the 2015 Built Ford Tough World Finals.
“Well, I just want to see him be consistent and be rank every time,” Berger said. “One thing about him is he doesn’t have the same trip twice. He is usually doing something different.”
Smooth Operator put forth a rank out in Big Sky.
“If he continues to perform like that he is going to be a very good competitor for bull of the year,” Berger said.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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