Golf: Thongchai says army training prepared him for French Open win

Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee poses with the trophy after winning the 100th French Golf Open on July 3, 2016.
Thailand's Thongchai Jaidee poses with the trophy after winning the 100th French Golf Open on July 3, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

(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 No. 4 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."

The Thai 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-time 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.