Jamie Donaldson poses with the Ryder Cup trophy after he hit the winning shot for Team Europe.
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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

A strong field has assembled in Shanghai this week for the final World Golf Championship event of 2014. Forty of the world’s top-50 ranked players will tee it up in the WGC-HSBC Champions at Sheshan International GC.

This is an official counting event on both the PGA and European Tours. On the European circuit, it is the second of four tournaments comprising the Tour’s “Final Series” for 2014. With $8,500,000 up for grabs, and with $1,400,000 going to the winner, this tournament provides a great opportunity for players to climb the Race to Dubai rankings.

A number of the most famous European stars are on the start sheet this week: Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson, Sergio Garcia, Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer, to name a few. But, there’s a strong contingent of lesser-known European players who could make a name for themselves with a strong showing in Shanghai. Below we take a look at five of the most likely candidates.

Jamie Donaldson: The Welshman made a strong showing in his debut Ryder Cup appearance at Gleneagles, where he picked up 3 points from four matches. Donaldson, 39, is something of a late bloomer. He’s been a professional since 2000, but it’s only in the last couple of seasons that he’s moved towards the upper-echelons of the European Tour. He currently sits second on the 2014 Race to Dubai having won over €2,300,000 this season. He won the Czech Masters in August and has had seven further top-10s this year. He was tied fourth in last week’s BMW Masters so is clearly still on good form.

(RELATED: Jamie Donaldson shows playful side during photoshoot)

Alexander Levy: Only 24, Levy has enjoyed a stellar season on the European Tour. He’s one of the circuit’s form players right now, having collected over €1 million in prize money over the last month. He won the rain-shortened Portugal Masters at the start of October and he looked to be cruising to victory in last week’s BMW Masters before a poor finish. He lost the event in a playoff to Germany’s Marcel Siem. He’s already been a winner in China this year: He was victorious in the Volvo China Open in April. He’s an incredibly talented player and definitely one to keep an eye on.

Thorbjorn Olesen: Another youngster with huge potential, Olesen won the ISPS HANDA Perth International two weeks ago. The 24-year-old has mixed his schedule between the European and PGA Tours over the past two seasons, but it’s been on the European circuit that he’s enjoyed the greatest success. He’s won twice and been runner-up five times over the last three years. He’s a solid all-round player who has the game to tackle any type of course.

(RELATED: Thorbjorn Olesen’s strategy secrets)

Joost Luiten: The Dutchman is another whose showed great late-season form on the European Tour. After narrowly missing out on selection for the Ryder Cup, he went on to win the ISPS HANDA Wales Open and finished third in the Volvo World Match Play. He’s an extremely consistent performer and has missed only three cuts on the 2014 European Tour. He’s 30th on the Official World Golf Ranking and 11th on the Race to Dubai. He’s an accurate hitter and a good ball-striker and Sheshan International should suit his game.

Mikko Ilonen: He’s won twice on the 2014 European Tour, most recently at the Volvo World Match Play Championship in London. The Finn is a streaky player with the ability to shoot low numbers. He’s played on the European Tour since 2001, but is enjoying his best ever year in 2014. He’s currently 10th on the Race to Dubai and has reached 38th on the Official World Golf Ranking. He was tied 10th in last week’s BMW Masters.

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