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McDowell win 'takes edge off' ahead of €7m Sawgrass

GOLF: Graeme McDowell hopes his first PGA Tour win for three years can kick-start his career instead of signalling it is time to take his foot off the gas.

Former US Open champion McDowell (pictured) won the RBC Heritage in South Carolina last month, beating Webb Simpson on the first hole of a play-off at Hilton Head. It was the Northern Irishman's first official victory in the United States since his 2010 triumph at Pebble Beach and the 33-year-old wants it to be the first of many.

"It wasn't like the excitement and elation of some previous wins, this one just felt right and felt like I was ready. It didn't require a huge party afterwards," McDowell said ahead of today's first round of the Players Championship at Sawgrass.

"Sometimes wins are springboards for something greater beyond and sometimes they feel like the finish line. When I won the US Open in 2010 there was definitely a chequered flag-feel about that.

"I've had wins which have felt like springboards to something better. I have to follow it up and hopefully have a great summer. I am very happy with what I am doing, I feel comfortable with my game and excited to play some more golf. Picking up a trophy takes the edge off pressure-wise and I can just play my game now."

Playing well enough to win on Sunday would earn McDowell a little more than €1.18million from the €7m prize fund on offer at Sawgrass, but 40 of the world's top 45 players are in the field for the game's "unofficial fifth major".

Daly advises Vijay to drop PGA suit

GOLF: Former Open champion John Daly, no stranger to controversy himself, has urged Vijay Singh to drop his lawsuit against the PGA Tour for "reckless administration and implementation" of its anti-doping programme.

A week after the Tour dropped their case against him for the use of deer antler spray, Singh yesterday filed a lawsuit in New York claiming their actions left him "humiliated, ashamed, ridiculed, scorned and emotionally distraught".

Daly wrote on Twitter: "VJ don't do this, horrible advice, you got off, take it from me, not worth it #friendlyadvice."

Singh, 50, admitted in January to using deer antler spray, which was said to contain small amounts of IGF-1 (Insulin-like Growth Factor-1), a growth hormone which at the time was on the World Anti-Doping Agency and PGA Tour list of prohibited substances. However, the World Anti-Doping Agency has since told the PGA Tour that "it no longer considers the use of deer antler spray to be prohibited".

Mayo's Moran 'ready' for Galway tie

GAELIC GAMES: Andy Moran has ruled himself in for Mayo's Connacht SFC opener against Galway on May 19.

The inspirational Ballintubber man has been out since rupturing his cruciate ligament during Mayo's All-Ireland quarter-final victory over Down last August but has undergone extensive rehabilitation and now says he is ready to make a full comeback, albeit most likely off the bench. "Yeah, I'm ready to go," Moran (pictured) revealed. "I'm back at that level now ... and it's time to go and take the shackles off."

Both Barry Moran (ankle) and Alan Dillon (groin) are also back in action for James Horan's side.

Degenkolb snatches Giro stage win

CYCLING: The Giro d'Italia lived up to its reputation as an unpredictable race yesterday when German John Degenkolb snatched victory in stage five after most of the bunch was held up by a late crash.

Degenkolb was one of only a few riders to escape trouble in the last corner after his Argos-Shimano team-mate Luka Mezgec went down on a slippery road, and launched a lung-burning 800-metre sprint to catch a lone rider up front.

Spain's Angel Vicioso was second and German Paul Martens finished third, while Italian Luca Paolini retained the overall leader's pink jersey.

Pre-race favourite Bradley Wiggins was held up behind the crash caused by slippery roads but because the incident occurred in the last three km of the 203-km stage, was credited back the time he lost and stayed sixth overall in an unchanged top 10.

Azarenka loses cool in shock defeat

TENNIS: Victoria Azarenka lost her temper and was docked a point for smashing her racket on the way to a surprise 1-6 6-2 6-3 defeat by unseeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova in the Madrid Open second round yesterday.

The Belarussian world number three, runner-up in the last two editions of the premier clay event and coming back from an injury layoff, appeared firmly in control against her 24th-ranked opponent after cruising through the first set. However, Makarova raised her game to take the second set and after Azarenka smashed her racket on the ground at 3-3 in the decider, the Australian Open champion's game fell apart and she suffered her first defeat of the year.