Cameron Smith says a newfound confidence in the driver has him feeling bullish about attempting to defend his Open Championship title next week.

The mullet-wearing Australian will head to Royal Liverpool this weekend to begin a four-day preparation for the Open, where he’ll attempt to become the first Australian since Peter Thomson in 1955 to successfully defend golf’s oldest major.

Coming off career-best results at the PGA Championship (T9) and US Open (fourth), Smith is in form on the majors stage. On the LIV Golf league he now plays on, Smith won its London tournament last week for his second title on the circuit. Although his driver was erratic in the final round there, Smith has been far more accurate with the big stick overall. It’s why he has near the lead in the past two major championships.

The 29-year-old feels he is a more complete player than when he won the 150th Open at St Andrews last year, when he overcame a final-round deficit of four shots with a 64 to win by one.

“Even though I won five times last year, I felt like I had a few days with the driver during a tournament where I was in contention, and it let me down,” Smith told Australian reporters on Friday. “I was grinding to stay at the top of the leaderboard. I feel like, with the driver straightening out, I’ve got birdies in me.”

Smith is attempting to become the first Australian male to win multiple majors since Greg Norman captured his second Open Championship in 1993.

“I’ve always tried not to put too much expectation on myself, but it is going to be different [next week defending a major],” he said. “I think the hardest thing is going to be giving back the trophy … It’s been so much fun. For sure, I’m going to go up there and give it my best shot and I’d love to win.”

Smith also addressed comments made by Rory McIlroy about LIV Golf at this week’s Scottish Open. McIlroy said, “If LIV was the last place to play golf on earth, I’d retire.”

Smith declined to go further into McIlroy’s comments but politely dismissed them. “I don’t think [LIV’s] that bad to be honest”.

“I’ve got no idea [what will happen]. I’m out of those conversations. [But] I think [LIV] was the best move I could have made when I made it. It’s even better now. It was definitely a tough time. It was something I expected four or five tournaments into the LIV season, watching what the boys had to put up with before me. It’s amazing how quick it changes for sure.”