The mullet was flowing, the short game was silky, and the driver was, at times, wayward. LIV Golf London winner Cameron Smith may be playing on a different league now to the PGA Tour, but his preparation for the upcoming Open Championship bears plenty of resemblance to the lead-up to his victory last year at St Andrews.

Overnight, Smith bagged a second career LIV title, at Centurion Club outside London. With a final round 68, the world No.7 finished at 15-under par and one ahead of countryman Marc Leishman and Patrick Reed.

Smith’s win had similar thrills and spills to some of his performances last season. Like the 2022 Players Championship, when Smith punched out of trees and into the water on the 18th at TPC Sawgrass only to save bogey to win by one. In London this week, Smith kept his fans similarly on the edge of their seats for all 54 holes.

There were chip-in birdies from impossible spots after errant tee shots, long-range putts poured in with ease and miraculous par saves down the stretch. At the par-5 15th on Sunday, while leading the tournament by two, Smith hooked his drive into trees with such force it looked like he’d need a provisional. He found his ball, and after two solid shots he burned the edge of the hole for birdie.

At the par-4 16th, Smith made a crucial up and down from short of the green while Reed was snapping at his heels courtesy of seven birdies in his last 11 holes. Smith then reclaimed momentum with a birdie at the par-3 17th.  “This course is so fiddly, it’s tough to play with a lead,” Smith said after his $US4 million win. “You’re almost trying to place it in the fairway and on the green rather than just hitting your shots. It can get to you. This is the best the putter has felt for a long time, and I think that definitely saved today’s round.”

At the par-5 18th, Smith couldn’t channel his trademark scrambling after pulling a drive into long rough. After a lay-up, he hit an uncharacteristically poor wedge for his third and found a greenside bunker. He then missed a short, but tricky, par putt. A bogey gave Smith a one-shot win but cost his Ripper GC team (Smith, Leishman, Matt Jones and Jed Morgan) the chance to enter LIV’s first ever teams playoff. Dustin Johnson’s 4 Aces side (Johnson, Reed, Peter Uihlein and Pat Perez) won their sixth teams title, a $US3 million prize they split four ways.

“I would have loved it,” Reed said of a teams playoff. Perez agreed: “Cam hasn’t missed one of those [putts] in his life, so I’m pretty shocked. [Extra holes] would have been cool.”

Tied second is Leishman’s best result on LIV since joining at the same time as Smith in September.

“I really wanted Cam to make the one on the last, but he played great and putted great all week,” he said. “I guess to win the tournament and still walk off the green disappointed, I guess that’s what this is all about, the team format. I think LIV will be really happy with the way it panned out.”

Bigger picture, the win is an important shot of confidence for 29-year-old Smith before defending his Open title at Royal Liverpool next week. The LIV victory ends a six-month win drought, an odd feeling for a player who won five times in 2022.

“I think it’s more of a confidence thing there; just winning again I think is nice,” he said. “It really hasn’t been that long since [winning the Australian PGA Championship in November] my last win, but it feels like forever. Especially the way I’ve been playing the last couple months, I’ve been knocking on the door.”

Smith has been knocking on the door at the majors, too. His fourth place at the US Open last month, and T-9 at the PGA Championship, were career-best results in those events. He wants the LIV victory to ignite another run. “Hopefully it opens the floodgates a little bit,” Smith, whose three PGA Tour wins last year came at Kapalua, the Players and the Open, said.

The preparation for the 151st Open will be different to last year. Instead of a 68-67 weekend (T-10) at the Scottish Open, he’ll probably head to Wimbledon and watch some tennis during a week-long rest. But he hopes The Open result will be the same.

“Probably no golf for me; I’ll hang out in London, see all the sights, and have a good time and relax,” he said. “I’ll be heading up to Hoylake on Saturday, so I’ll have a bit of a longer prep than usual.”