Rory McIlroy admitted Sunday at the Open was far from straightforward as he held off a spirited challenge from Ryder Cup team-mate Sergio Garcia to claim his third major title on a thrilling final day at Royal Liverpool.
The 25-year-old Northern Irishman took a six-shot lead over Rickie Fowler into the last round and eventually held his nerve to card a closing 71 and win by two shots from Garcia and the American.
"It feels incredible," McIlroy said. "Today wasn't easy. There were a lot of guys making runs at me and I just needed to stay focused, keep in the present and concentrate on what I was doing out there.
"To be three legs towards the career grand slam at the age of 25 is a pretty good achievement. It's not going to sink in for a while."
Asked if he always felt in control, McIlroy added: "The lead never got less than two. I always felt I had that little bit of a cushion.
"I knew I had some holes where I could make birdie and 16 was the real hole for me which I think settled the championship."
There was some good-natured booing at the presentation ceremony when McIlroy thanked the fans for their support, even though he is a Manchester United fan.
The former world No 1 also praised the efforts of Fowler and Garcia, adding: "Well done for putting up such a fight. Rickie, no doubt with the way your major record is this year your time will come, and Sergio too....two of the best players in the world."
McIlroy also thanked his friends and family, adding: "This is the first major my mum (Rosie) has been to that I've won, so mum, this one's for you.
"I just can't wait to get back and defend this thing at St Andrews next year."
Reflecting on his achievement later on in front of the assembled media, McIlroy acknowledged that his victory at Hoylake had already seen him accomplish a lifelong ambition.
"The Open Championship was the one you really wanted growing up, and the one you holed so many putts on the putting green to win, to beat Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, whatever,” he explained.
"I never dreamed of being at this point in my career so quickly."
McIlroy’s celebrations on Sunday were in stark contrast to 12 months ago when he missed the halfway cut at Muirfield, an experience he believes that ultimately taught him a valuable lesson.
"I had never missed a cut at the Open before. And I really missed playing the weekend (at Muirfield)," he continued.
"I said to myself, I'll try to never make that happen again. It's been huge what a difference a year makes, I guess. But it's turned into a great year.
"The win at Wentworth (in May) was huge. And obviously getting my third major is a huge step in the right direction. There's many more tournaments and many more trophies that I want to win.”
Perhaps the most obvious of those now becomes the Masters as he looks to close out a career Grand Slam and McIlroy admits he is confident of getting that particular job done.
"I am looking forward to next April and trying to complete the career Grand Slam," he said. "I'm getting more comfortable. The thing is I've always been comfortable from tee to green at Augusta.
"And it's just taken me a few years to figure out the greens and figure out where you need to miss it and some different little shots that you might need that week.
"I'll be going into Augusta next year pretty confident."