By: Justin Felisko
PUEBLO, Colo. – It was a bang-bang moment almost two weeks ago in Lincoln, Nebraska, but two-time World Champion Jess Lockwood landed in a close to perfect spot on his right shoulder when Night Shift bucked him off in 6.05 seconds.
The defending World Champion immediately headed toward the PBR sports medicine room with his arm hanging to the side.
It was clear things were not right as a frustrated Lockwood grimaced his way through the confines of Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The moment was the last PBR fans saw of the fan favorite. Lockwood doctored out for the remainder of the Lincoln event, as well as this past weekend’s PBR Express Ranches Classic, presented by Bass Pro Shops, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“When will Lockwood return?” has been a common question ever since Lockwood left Lincoln the following morning after he partially dislocated his shoulder.
Lockwood finally got his answer when he underwent an MRI with Dr. Tandy Freeman in Dallas on Monday. According to Dr. Freeman, Lockwood will miss the final two events of the regular season to let his shoulder heal further and so he can compete at the 2020 PBR World Finals in Arlington, Texas, on Nov. 12-15 at AT&T Stadium.
The soon-to-be five-time PBR World Finals qualifier confirmed on his social media accounts that he will be returning in Arlington, and he has already posted videos on his Instagram stories of himself using pulsed electro-magnetic field technology from Pulse Equine on his shoulder.
The shoulder injury is the latest setback in what has become an injury-plagued season for the defending World Champion.
Lockwood had been fighting an uphill battle since he sustained a career-threatening torn left hamstring on March 1 following a 91.5-point ride on I’m Legit Too.
The Volborg, Montana, bull rider was the No. 2 rider in the world standings at the time of that injury, and he was a mere 72.5 points back of world leader Jose Vitor Leme.
Lockwood worked his tail off for six months to return to competition last month in hopes of putting forth a final push at Leme and the world title.
However, Lockwood went only 3-for-10 on the Unleash The Beast since returning to competition on Sept. 11, and his chances at becoming the second rider in PBR history to win back-to-back world titles seem to be in major jeopardy at this point.
Now the No. 5-ranked bull rider in the world, Lockwood is 740 points behind Leme, who can now put a further nail in Lockwood’s championship coffin at the final two events of the regular season (Nampa, Idaho, and Pensacola, Florida).
One rider can earn a maximum of 1,060 points at the World Finals by winning every round and the event average, so Lockwood is mathematically still in contention for the 2020 world title.
However, it would take a herculean effort for Lockwood in Arlington, as well for Leme to collapse down the stretch and at the Finals, for it to seem like a realistic shot.
In fact, Lockwood had quite the comeback last season to win the 2019 World Championship when he went 5-for-6 win the 2019 PBR World Finals and clinch the gold buckle. In that performance, Lockwood outgained Leme, who went 4-for-6, by 498 world points in this year’s points system to usurp Leme for the 2019 World Championship.
Simply put, if Leme extends his lead even further on Lockwood at the next two events, and potentially at the 2020 Pendleton Whisky Velocity Tour Finals, it would put Lockwood on the brink of elimination.
Lockwood could still make history in a different manner come the Finals at AT&T Stadium even if his gold buckle aspirations are dwindling.
Only one rider in PBR history – Robson Palermo (2011-12) – has won back-to-back PBR World Finals event titles, and only three riders – Palermo, Troy Dunn (1995, 1997) and J.B. Mauney (2009, 2013) have won multiple World Finals.
The fifth-year pro has become one of the more consistent threats in recent years at the PBR World Finals, too. After going 0-for-5 at his first PBR World Finals in 2016, Lockwood has since gone 12-for-18 (66.66%) with six 90-point rides at the PBR’s season-culminating event. Lockwood won a PBR-record three consecutive rounds to begin the 2017 PBR World Finals and win his first world title.
If Lockwood is healthy enough at the Finals, he could easily be a favorite to leave AT&T Stadium with the first ever World Finals event title won outside of Las Vegas.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
Photo courtesy of Andre Silva/Bull Stock Media
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