For Cameron Smith, it lacked the historic nature of his final round at this year's Open Championship or the lights-out golf of his last 18 holes at the Tournament of Champions or the dramatic finale at TPC Sawgrass when he took the Players Championship in March. But the result Sunday at LIV Golf Chicago as he shot 69 in the final round of his second LIV event to finish at 13 under was exactly the same: he lifted a trophy.
Nobody would compare this trophy -- which he won over Dustin Johnson, who finished at 10 under and Peter Uihlein, who also came in at 10 under -- with any of his other three this year, but the field Smith conquered was solid and he took home more money ($4 million) than he did at any of the other three events where he was the champion.
WINNER WINNER 🏆#LIVGolf #LIVGolfChicago pic.twitter.com/utkNDnqYEP— LIV Golf (@LIVGolfInv) September 18, 2022
Smith, who shot 64, 65 and 66 in the final three rounds of his other wins in 2022, posted was just 1 under through 16 holes after firing 66 and 68 over the first two days at Rich Harvest Farms but shut things down before they could get too dramatic with a birdie-birdie finish to put first place completely out of reach. Johnson, who shot 63 in Round 1 and curiously followed it with a 73-70 finish, could not chase him down on Sunday after ceding an early tournament lead to him in the second round on Saturday (they swapped 1-2 spots on the top of the leaderboard). It was actually Uihlein who gave the best effort, firing 66-69 over the last two days and securing his best finish yet (T2) in the LIV Golf League.
Smith has proven himself an elite closer in big time events, but he can also be a menace to try and catch because of how few big numbers he makes on account of his elite short game. He made just four bogeys on a tough golf course over the final two days at Rich Harvest Farms and cruised to a victory in which he was far and away the top player in the field.
"I think I have to prove to probably myself and some other people that I'm still a great player," Smith said after his victory. "I'm still out here to win golf tournaments. I'm proud of how I hung in there today. I didn't really have my best stuff the first eight or nine holes, but stuck it tough and made a few putts coming in. It was nice."
It's true that Smith, who started on the first hole in the shotgun start format, did not have his best stuff early. Two of his four bogeys on the weekend came on the first six holes on Sunday, but he righted the ship over the last 12 holes and played them in a combined 4 under to pull away from Uihlein and D.J., who Smith noted provided a nice benchmark for great play in LIV.
"He's probably the one on the group of players here that you look at and you think he's going to be pretty close to the top of the leaderboard every week," Smith said. "I hope he thinks the same about me, and hopefully we can keep this going."
The duo finished in the top five at the LIV Boston event as well with D.J. taking the trophy in a playoff, and Smith missing that playoff by a single stroke.
It was actually D.J.'s team -- the 4 Aces -- that pulled through for the team win with D.J. making a birdie at the last to seal the victory. His squad of Talor Gooch, Pat Perez and Patrick Reed squeaked out its fourth consecutive LIV Golf win (all but one of the five team finishes have gone to the 4 Aces) by a single stroke over Smash GC, made up of the Koepka brothers (Chase and Brooks), Jason Kokrak and Uihlein, who anchored them this week against the Aces.
Smith's word choice after the win was interesting. He said he felt like he needed to prove himself to himself "and some other people" after moving over to LIV, even after winning the final major of the year in The Open at St. Andrews. Certainly Smith has heard from chirpy fans that he sold out to go to LIV and that his game will fall off as he moves away from the most competitive tour in the world, and it was clear in this week that he wants to prove that wrong.
Only time will tell how that plays out. However, his three round at Rich Harvest Farms this week were a reminder of what has been very clear over the last nine months, which is that Smith is unequivocally one of the top three players in the world, just as he's been for all of 2022.