BILLINGS — Jess Lockwood will not repeat as the Professional Bull Riders world champion.
The cold, flat numbers tell him that.
But he knows there is still a whole bunch of money to be won at this week’s PBR World Finals in Las Vegas.
And in a city built on odds, don’t bet against the Volborg cowboy from cashing in big.
“I’m going there to win rounds and win the average,” Lockwood said while waiting at the Rapid City, South Dakota, airport last week, on his way to Los Angeles for some PBR promotional work. “If I do that, that’s still a lot of money.”
A year ago, Lockwood became the youngest (20 years old) and the first from Montana to win the PBR World title. He won the first three rounds and earned more than $1.5 million for 2017.
Lockwood enters his third PBR World Finals 11th in the standings. He is 3,359 points behind leader Kaique Pacheco of Brazil. In all, 3,300 points are available during the five-day event at T-Mobile Arena.
“It was a roller coaster,” Lockwood said of his season. “I took some ups and took some downs. I’ve never had to sit out this much before.”
Lockwood, who turned 21 on Sept. 27, has been sidelined since Sept. 13 after re-aggravating a torn right groin. He initially suffered the injury in Nashville, Tennessee, in August and re-injured it a month later in Springfield, Missouri. He missed the final six events of the regular season.
“When I hurt my groin in Nashville and Tandy (Dr. Freeman) told me I couldn’t ride the second day, I wasn’t too happy,” Lockwood said. “And when I came back and hurt it again, it was really frustrating.”
Lockwood announced he would return at Nampa, Idaho, in mid-October, but after coming up sore the next day after riding a practice bull, changed his mind.
“I decided it wouldn’t be a wise decision to ride in Nampa,” he said. “I want to been in good health for the world finals.”
Lockwood said the call to stay out was his choice.
“That’s my call. I’m my own person,” he added.
Lockwood has spent the last eight weeks rehabbing the injury in Texas and Montana.
“I’ve been doing a lot of stretching, building up the muscles around it,” he said of the injury.
Lockwood had seven top-10 finishes this year, including a win at Sioux Falls, South Dakota, for $224,301 in PBR earnings. He also won 15/15 Bucking Battle in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and the Touring Pro Division event in Sheridan, Wyoming.
Between events, he closed on a place in Volborg on July 2. The 184-acre spread includes a house, three garages, a horse barn, outdoor arena and pens and stalls. He keeps his growing cattle herd at his parents’ ranch. Lockwood also had his well-known workout shed moved to his new place.
“I got it filled (with furniture) the way I want,” Lockwood said proudly. “And if I need anything, my folks are just 15 minutes away. As the crow flies, it’s two miles. But to get there, you’ve got to go around on the highway.”
Expanding his brand, Lockwood has created a website that sells T-shirts and hats.
He also showed his penchant for winning when the stakes are high. Lockwood won the bull riding at The American in Arlington, Texas, for $100,000 and earned another $75,000 at Chad Berger’s Match of Champions event in Bismarck, North Dakota, in June.
“I like my back against the wall. When the pressure is on,” the 2016 PBR rookie of the year said. “I like to rise to the occasion. The bigger the money, the bigger I ride.”
And when he finally climbs into the chutes in Las Vegas, one trend will stop following him.
“Oh man, probably on a daily basis? Ten times a day,” Lockwood said with a laugh about people asking how he is feeling.
“I just want to get the best score I can on every single bull I get on. I do that and the rest will take care of itself.
“I feel great.”
NOTES: Lockwood will be joined by Matt Triplett of Columbia Falls. Triplett, 27, is 16th in the world standings after a well-traveled summer. Returning to competition after reconstructive shoulder surgery, he competed in 29 cities in three countries, 16 states and five Canadian provinces during a 168-day span (April 28-Oct. 13). He capped the whirlwind run with a win at Greensboro, North Carolina, for $37,200. He picked up checks in Eureka, Big Sky and Livingston while competing closer to home.
Each round of the PBR World Finals will be televised on the CBS Sports Network at 10 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.