(Reuters) - Thongchai Jaidee credited his time as a paratrooper in the Thai army for giving him the physical and mental strength to hold off Europe’s finest golfers and win the French Open at the weekend.
The 46-year-old ended his “perfect week” at Le Golf National near Paris with a closing round three-under-par 68 to finish four strokes ahead of Italy’s Francesco Molinari and five in front of world number four Rory McIlroy.
“It was a special week,” Thongchai said after becoming the oldest winner in French Open history.
“It was my perfect week because I didn’t miss many shots. Anything I miss, I make a good recovery shot and make par.”
Thongchai began his final round with a two-shot lead over McIlroy and mixed four birdies with a single bogey at the final hole to clinch his eighth European Tour title.
The three times the Asian Tour Order of Merit winner said a recent focus on psychology had built upon the toughness he acquired in the Thai military.
“I worked in the army for 14 years. I trained in the army camp about two years as an air bomb paratrooper, that’s why I have to be strong,” Thongchai added.
“When I play golf, I think it is really easy. Because training with the army, I had to wake up at five in the morning, run about two hours every morning and in the evening for two years.”
Thongchai’s victory was a record seventh for Asian golfers on the European Tour in a single season and will provide him with a confidence boost as he heads to Troon for the British Open.
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru, editing by Nick Mulvenney