What Vinny Del Negro learned from playing a round with Annika Sorenstam

Longtime NBA TV analyst Vinny Del Negro already has plenty of cred on the court from his time as an NBA player and coach, but as the most recent winner of the American Century Championship, Del Negro proved he has some serious prowess on the golf course, too.

In this week’s episode of Subpar, Del Negro sat down with hosts Colt Knost and Drew Stoltz to relive his week at Edgewood Tahoe. Del Negro’s father sadly passed away just two days before the tournament began, and Del Negro said he was thinking about what his dad would say to him to prepare him for competition: “Get locked in.” And that he did, beating John Smoltz in a playoff to claim his first ACC title.

It was an emotional week for Del Negro, but despite the loss he endured, his tournament experience was still packed with highlights. Del Negro specifically mentioned how cool it was to play a practice round with Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam.

“She’s a machine,” Del Negro told Knost and Stoltz. “She didn’t miss a fairway. She was like, four yards left, four yards right. She can just hit it. Could not have been nicer. Talked the whole way.

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“She’s back to playing competitive golf. She’s getting ready to play in some of these senior LPGA events, and there’s a couple majors,” Del Negro continued. “And really what’s gotten her back into golf is her kids. Her daughter is a really good player, but her son is starting to be a good player, and he really loves it. So she said they’re spending a lot of time on the golf course, and she’s kind of rejuvenated her love for it. She loves to compete, and it was just fantastic to be around her because obviously she’s such a great person.”

Sorenstam held her own in the tournament, finishing fourth with 64 points — five points shy of Del Negro and Smoltz.

“I’ll tell you what I really was incredibly impressed with her was, if she was hitting her driver, a 7-iron, a pitching wedge, or a lob wedge, her back-to-through motion never changes,” Del Negro said. “Her speed is like, her speed. She’s so consistent because her turn and her speed. It’s just really incredible. Everything is so consistent with her. Her speed, her tempo, her turn. It’s like a machine. It’s consistent, there’s no hitches, there’s no anything. Back and through. She picks her spots.

“In the practice round she birdied the first two holes. I think she hit the first one to like four feet, the other one to two feet. And I was like, wow. And the thing that’s crazy, let’s say she’s hitting 8-iron in there, and I’m hitting a gap wedge or a sand wedge. And I’m hitting it 20 feet and she’s hitting it four feet. But it’s just consistent. I was like, man, I got a lot of work to do to beat her. She makes it look easy.”

Del Negro did acknowledge that Sorenstam’s impressive tempo is the result of a lot of hard work — as evidenced by a long range session he witnessed after Saturday’s second round.

“She was out there hitting balls until like 6,” Del Negro said. “I said, I should have been out there! She should have been relaxing like I was.”

For more from Del Negro, including his picks for the best golfers in the NBA and his favorite course and dream foursome, check out his full interview below.

Jessica Marksbury

As a four-year member of Columbia’s inaugural class of female varsity golfers, Jessica can out-birdie everyone on the masthead. She can out-hustle them in the office, too, where she’s primarily responsible for producing both print and online features, and overseeing major special projects, such as GOLF’s inaugural Style Is­sue, which debuted in February 2018. Her origi­nal interview series, “A Round With,” debuted in November of 2015, and appeared in both in the magazine and in video form on GOLF.com.