Thousand Oaks - Rory McIlroy insists he didn't "need" a win, but he had to admit - it felt pretty good.
The two-time major winner from Northern Ireland started 2013 at the top of the golf world.
But he endured a frustrating season before finally finding his way to the winner's circle for the first time in more than 12 months at the Australian Open last week.
McIlroy did it in style, overhauling Masters champion Adam Scott with a final-round 66 to win by a stroke.
"Did I need the win? Probably not," McIlroy said on Wednesday as he prepared to tee it up Thursday in the World Challenge hosted by Tiger Woods.
"Was it nice to get the win? Of course. But I felt like I saw enough good golf in there to know that it was very close, and it wasn't going to be long before I did win.
"What I was happy with the most was the limited amount of times that I have gotten in contention this year, I have played well. I have played well down the stretch. I've played well under pressure."
As the disappointing finishes piled up, however, those nuances were lost on many of McIlroy's critics, who questioned decision to switch to new equipment and even his dedication to the game.
Finding a way to tune out that chatter was part of what he learned this year, McIlroy said.
"It's hard not to listen to it," he said. "But you have to try to block it out and not listen to it.
"It's the first year I've really had that much criticism and scrutiny. I feel like I've learned to deal with it much better."
McIlroy said he'd found it particularly unproductive to follow feedback from the public on such sites as Twitter too closely.
"What I feel like I've learned this year is they think that your good is better than what it is, and they think your bad is worse than what it is... there's no real balance in it.
"So there is no point in getting carried away with the hype, and no point in getting carried away with the criticism either."
In any case, McIlroy said, he's always his own worst critic, although he's trying to lighten up.
In particular, he's trying to appreciate the value of scraping a decent score, even if the game itself isn't great.
"The thing I need to remember is it doesn't have to be pretty all the time," he said. "That is something I need to do a little bit more of - need to play the ugly golf better and manage my game better so when I'm not playing that well, I can still shoot around par or a couple under."
After this week's unofficial event, which features an elite 18-man field headed by tournament host Woods, McIlroy will take a few weeks off before heading out for tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Although he's looking forward to the break, he wants to start off sharp in 2014.
"I'm just going to keep on top of my mechanics a little more, my golf swing," he said. "Make sure when I come out to the new season that there's nothing that has to be worked on that much."