Winged Foot will be Winged Foot, and that should be all it takes to produce a classic
"The golf course is in front of you," said Gary Woodland, who finally has a chance to defend the US Open title he won in June of last year at Pebble Beach.
"There's no tricks to it. You've just got to step up and hit good shots."
McIlroy said he arrived at Winged Foot primed by stories of Opens past: the 1974 "Massacre at Winged Foot" won by Hale Irwin and the 2006 meltdowns of Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie that opened the door for Australian Geoff Ogilvy to seize the title with a five-over par total.
"It's hard, obviously, but I think it's very, very fair," McIlroy said. "Something would have to go seriously wrong to get into the realms of goofy golf."
McIlroy will open off the 10th tee on Thursday at 08:07 (14:07 SA time) alongside Australian Adam Scott and England's Justin Rose.
At the same time 15-time major champion Tiger Woods, Justin Thomas and newly minted PGA Championship winner Collin Morikawa will tee off on the first hole.
Woodland will play alongside 2019 British Open champion Shane Lowry of Ireland and US Amateur champion Andy Ogletree, teeing off at 13:05 (19:05 SA time).
World No 1 Dustin Johnson, aiming to crown a dazzling return to form with a second career major title, will play alongside fellow Americans Bryson DeChambeau and Tony Finau.
While USGA chief executive Mike Davis said officials had even looked at ways to make the golf course "a little bit easier," straying from the fairway will be punitive.
Woodland said he was practising chips on Saturday and "lost a ball for about five minutes - and it was right in front of me.
"We didn't find it until we stepped on it," he said.
With no spectators to trample down the rough - or offer clues to the whereabouts of errant balls - volunteer marshals will be on watch.
"So beware," Bodenhamer said. "If you get it outside the rope lines this week, it's going to be significant."