HAVE you flung in your tuppence worth on Padraig Harrington’s European Ryder Cup wild cards yet?

No? Well, you’d better get cracking because just about everybody has had their say and if you don’t contribute to the general cacophony by the time you’ve reached the end of this sentence, you’ll probably get a visit from baton-wielding Wild Card Debate Enforcement Officers.

Listen. There’s a menacing, heavy-handed thump on your door right now.

Quick, duck behind the couch and hope they move on to No 53.

Nothing whips golfy folk into a fevered frenzy quite like the exhausting will he, won’t he palaver of the captain’s picks.

Adopting the contemplative pose of Rodin’s The Thinker battling with a powerful internal struggle, all and sundry try to guess what the skipper is thinking while declaring that he should be thinking about this player and not thinking about that player before finally finding out what the captain has been thinking all along and thinking of ways to question his thinking.

Nobody, of course, does thinking quite like Harrington.

The amiable Irishman is so analytical and meticulous, he probably goes through his collection of fine-tooth combs with a fine-tooth comb.

HeraldScotland: Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter in 2018Sergio Garcia and Ian Poulter in 2018

Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter and Shane Lowry are the men the two-time Open champion has put his faith in for the showdown at Whistling Straits which starts a week on Friday.

And when the Ryder Cup is done and dusted, we’ll either be championing the choices or raking over the debris. ‘Twas ever thus.

It’s a funny old business this captaincy lark. There are not many sports where the skipper spends over 20 months – more in this case due to the covid postponement – preparing for a three-day shoot-out during which the only direct influence he can exert is the pairings and order of a list of players he has, by and large, had little part in selecting.

By the end of the Sunday singles, he will either be lauded as an inspired, tactical genius who has harnessed and dictated the ebb and flow of events or damned as a nincompoop who couldn’t organise a game of musical chairs.

Back in the day, the captain’s role seemed to be fairly straight forward.

“Boys, let me tell you something,” said Ben Hogan to his US troops of 1967.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to do this job. I’m going to pair straight hitters with straight hitters and crooked hitters with crooked hitters so you won’t find yourselves in unfamiliar places.”

For rookie Lowry, the Ryder Cup will be unfamiliar territory but, as a major champion and WGC winner, he’s hardly a raw recruit and he’ll relish the tumultuous cut-and-thrust.

His inclusion meant Justin Rose missed out. Rose, with a sturdy track record in the contest, has been trending in the right direction with back-to-back top 10s in his last two events and he has a decent pedigree at Whistling Straits having finished fourth there in the PGA Championship back in 2015. It was a tough call.

HeraldScotland: Justin Rose missed out on the callJustin Rose missed out on the call

Garcia and Poulter, meanwhile, were always going to get the nod.

Poulter has built up a reputation as The Postman because he always seems to deliver in the Ryder Cup. Some cynics could look at the fact he’s amassed just three points in seven matches since winning four out of four in 2012. Others will look at his unbeaten singles record.

Nobody, however, will overlook his inspiring presence and the passionate chest-beating that’s akin to a gorilla at the height of the mating season which remains a valuable weapon in the European armoury.

If he doesn’t deliver, though, that Postman moniker may have to be consigned to the bin.

But calculated gambles are part and parcel of the wild card picks. You only need to go back to 2018 to see that. Garcia had missed the cut in all four majors that year during a largely downbeat season but was given a call-up by Thomas Bjorn and returned three wins out of four as this talismanic figure became Europe’s all-time leading points scorer.

Harrington won’t be worried about his picks in the slightest. He may have more concerns over those who actually qualified automatically. Tyrrell Hatton, for instance, is in the midst of a pretty hum-drum run of form which has led to him missing the cut in four of his last six events. As seasoned sages will testify, trying to find your game in the general brouhaha of a Ryder Cup ain’t easy.

And what of Lee Westwood? Since a second place in The Players’ Championship back in March, the 48-year-old, who will equal Nick Faldo’s record of 11 Ryder Cup appearances, has not finished higher than 21st. His last Ryder Cup outing in 2016 saw him lose all three matches. At the weekend, Westwood was critical of a qualifying process which put stressful significance on the final counting event at Wentworth for those on the bubble.

But a pressure cooker situation is what the Ryder Cup is all about. As Harrington said himself: “It’s the kind of drama that I was hoping for because that’s what you need when it comes to the Ryder Cup.”

In 10 days, the talking will stop, the play will start and we’ll see if Harrington’s men have what it takes.