Harrington played a brilliant back nine to defend his title
Padraig Harrington spoke of his delight after becoming only the seventh player of the post-war era to retain the Open title with victory at Royal Birkdale.
Ireland's Harrington shot a final round of 69 to finish three over, four shots clear of Ian Poulter in second place.
"Very few players have won two majors or back-to-back majors," said 36-year-old Harrington. "Winning a second one sets you apart.
"It is a new level and there are less people in that club."
Harrington, who finished the back nine in a four-under 32, said that the wrist injury that had threatened his participation at Birkdale had turned out to be a positive factor.
Once I got my tee shot away at 18, I knew I had won
"In hindsight the fact I did not have to play three practice rounds meant that I was fresh for the battle ahead," he added.
"Maybe having a wrist injury took a bit of the stress and pressure off me. It was a good distraction."
Harrington was two clear at the top of the leaderboard as he approached the 17th, with nearest rival Ian Poulter already in the clubhouse on seven over par.
OTHER BACK-TO-BACK OPEN WINNERS (POST-WAR)
Tiger Woods 2005, 06
Tom Watson 1982, 83
Lee Trevino 1971, 72
Arnold Palmer 1961, 62
Peter Thomson 1954, 55, 56
Bobby Locke 1949, 50
But the Dubliner used a wood to smash a brilliant second to the 17th green and sunk his putt for a decisive eagle that took him four clear of Poulter.
"I had to pay attention and even with a two-shot lead I was not comfortable," said Harrington.
"But with a four-shot lead, and once I got my tee shot away at 18, I knew I had won. It was just a case of playing the hole out in style.
"I had a great year as the Open champion, so much so I did not want to give it back."
Harrington said that he had tried not to think about the possibility of retaining his title going in to the final round two shots adrift of overnight leader Greg Norman.
"All year I felt that I played pretty solidly but I tried to stay patient and wait for my week," he said.
"I knew my game was there but maybe this week I got the right break at the right time and made the right decisions at the right time.
"I tried my hardest not to think about the consequences of winning. I tried to convince myself I was going to win but not think about what it meant."
The victory all but assures Harrington of a place in Nick Faldo's European Ryder Cup team for the defence of their title in September.
Outside of an automatic place a week ago, the Irishman has now leapt to the top of the rankings table.
"That has been on my mind and not helping the golf," he said. "I felt like I have been playing solid golf but not getting the rewards."