BY: Justin Felisko (PBR Senior Writer/Editor)
PUEBLO, Colo. – The secret is out of the bag with the PBR Majors now in their fourth season of existence.
Win New York, Iron Cowboy, Last Cowboy Standing or the Music City Knockout and you can assure yourself a much better chance of being in the world title conversation come season’s end once the 25th PBR World Finals: Unleash The Beast in Las Vegas (Nov. 7-11).
This Saturday’s WinStar World Casino & Resort Invitational, powered by Kawasaki, is the 13th PBR Major in PBR history. One rider can walk away with a minimum of 625 world points to as many as 1,250 points if he wins every round and the event goes a full five rounds.
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The winner of a PBR Major earns on average 842.29 points toward the world standings.
That large chunk of points has helped the previous eight winners of the 11 PBR Majors, not including this year’s season-opener victory for Gage Gay, all finish 12th or better in the world standings.
Two PBR Major winners – 2017 World Champion Jess Lockwood and 2016 PBR World Champion Cooper Davis – won PBR Majors during their championship seasons, while Kaique Pacheco, Eduardo Aparecido and Joao Ricardo Vieira all finished in the Top 5 of the world standings.
The only three riders not to finish in the Top 5 were Fabiano Vieira (10th in 2017), Shane Proctor (11th in 2016) and Paulo Lima (12th in 2015).
Essentially, barring a massive slump (i.e. Proctor and Lima) or injuries (i.e. Fabiano Vieira and Gay this year), a PBR Major victory guarantees a rider a seat at the World Championship dinner table come the PBR World Finals.
Reigning PBR World Champion Jess Lockwood said that winning a PBR Major isn’t essential to winning a world title, but that it obviously helps.
Lockwood brought up how Derek Kolbaba (five events wins) and Cooper Davis (11 round wins) were the front runners last year heading into the World Finals despite lacking a PBR Major on their resumes.
In 2015, J.B. Mauney was able to clinch the world title before the Finals was even over, and he didn’t win a PBR Major.
“I don’t think it is a necessity, just look at Derek and Coop last year being the front runners for the world title. And look at J.B. too,” Lockwood said.
Davis added, “Winning a Major is important, but not necessarily a necessity. I think round wins are just as important as a single Major win.”
The 2018 World Championship conversation will certainly revolve around stats such as event wins, round victories, qualified rides, riding percentage and conversions aboard the rankest bulls in 15/15 Bucking Battles and championship rounds, but the PBR Majors offer a clear-cut path to a ticket to the World Championship conversation.
Nine-time World Champion Ty Murray will be joining Craig Hummer and two-time World Champion Justin McBride in the broadcast booth in Arlington. Fans can watch Rounds 1 & 2 on CBS Sports Network at 10:30 p.m. ET on Saturday night. They then can watch the finale of Iron Cowboy Sunday at noon ET on CBS national television.
Murray compares the PBR Majors to that of a playoff game for the riders.
“If you are going to be a World Champion, you have to step up to the mental challenges,” Murray said. “That is the element for me that the Majors bring to the sport of bull riding. Physically, you can argue it is basically the same and you have to ride your bulls. That is the name of the game since it was invented to now. Adding in that element of more points, the pressure of what it can do for a world title race or getting you in the hunt. That is the step-up of a mental challenge of this sport.
“That is what I like about the four majors. When you are able to step up and excel at a place that mentally can be harder to excel at, you get rewarded for it.”
Lockwood and Davis wouldn’t be World Champions if not for their PBR Major victories the last two seasons, but it also can be said that PBR Major championships for the other six bull riders did not equate to a gold buckle.
There are no guarantees in bull riding.
Eduardo Aparecido held the No. 1 world ranking for six months last year after overtaking Lockwood for the lead when he earned a PBR Major-record 955 points at Iron Cowboy.
“It is very good because it gives you a lot of points,” Aparecido said. “The new design with the points, if you win a Major it is like you win two or three events.”
Pacheco has the most PBR Major victories (3) and has won a PBR Major every year of his career, but he has yet to place a gold buckle on his waist.
It is no coincidence that he has two runner-up finishes and a No. 5 ranking last year courtesy of two Last Cowboy Standing titles and a Music City Knockout crown.
“These are very important events because there are more points,” Pacheco said. “A lot more points and money. That helps a lot for the world title. All of the events are important, but Majors are more important.”
Iron Cowboy is a single-elimination “ride or go home” format with riders advancing to the next round by making a qualified ride. Iron Cowboy is a minimum of two rounds and a maximum of five.
It has been the same format as Last Cowboy Standing since 2015, and Pacheco called it one of the most grueling events on the PBR schedule.
“Yes they are harder because you need to ride more bulls in just one day,” Pacheco said. “Five bulls.”
Joao Ricardo Vieira couldn’t hold off J.B. Mauney in 2015 despite winning Iron Cowboy and Last Cowboy Standing. The 2013 Rookie of the Year went on to finish third in the world standings.
Despite coming up short of a gold buckle, the trios PBR Majors put them on the putting green of a championship.
However, none of them converted on the 18th hole at the PBR World Finals like Lockwood and Davis.
“Best way to get the gold is to step up when it matters most and consistency,” Lockwood concluded.
Below is the world point structure for Iron Cowboy
Round Points Event Points
1st – 125 1st - 625
2nd – 75 2nd - 100
3rd – 60 3rd - 75
4th – 50 4th - 50
5th – 40 5th – 25
6th – 20 6th - 15
7th – 10 7th - 10
8th - 5
9th - 5
10th – 5
11th – 5
12th – 5
13th – 5
* If the event ends with only one rider making a qualified ride in the final round, regardless of when that round occurs after the first round, then that rider is the Last Cowboy Standing and receives 625 points for the event win. No other riders are awarded event points.
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